Martin Lawrence Live: Runteldat

Not every star survives a public meltdown as bizarre as the one Martin Lawrence underwent in the late 1990s, when reports of his out-of-control behavior kept the likes of Entertainment Tonight buzzing for months. But if that celebrity is lucky enough to be a stand-up comedian who's cultivated a wild and crazy image, he or she can actually put that notoriety...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Not every star survives a public meltdown as bizarre as the one Martin Lawrence underwent in the late 1990s, when reports of his out-of-control behavior kept the likes of Entertainment Tonight buzzing for months. But if that celebrity is lucky enough to be a stand-up comedian who's cultivated a wild and crazy image, he or she can actually put that notoriety to work by turning it into material. Which is exactly what Lawrence does in this nearly two-hour concert film, shot in Washington, D.C., during the final two performances of Lawrence's "Runteldat" tour. (The dubious term is Lawrence's own, a compound of "run tell that" meant to convey the truth-telling objective of his material.) After a short introductory film in which Lawrence recaps the highlights/low points of his career thus far — and takes his first shots at the media who dared suggest that he might be wild and crazy for real — Lawrence takes the stage and launches into a 90 minute set, promising to preempt the E! network and tell his own True Hollywood Story. Unfortunately, that story is padded with Martin's personal views on post-9/11 air travel (he appreciates the fact that blacks and whites are in this thing together — it's the colors in between he's worried about); how different ethnic groups react when being pulled over by the cops (Mexicans, it seems, really do scream "Arriba!" when agitated); and how thoroughly sickening he finds the whole childbirth experience. There's a long, rambling bit in which he portrays a drunk telling his girlfriend exactly what he thinks of her (none of it flattering), a lot of profane carpe diem philosophizing ("Ride the motherf***ker till the wheels fall off!", said motherf***r being life) and a few choice words for critics ("F**k you"). When Lawrence finally gets around to addressing the reported off-screen nuttiness, he assures his faithful audience that he wasn't really crazy, just incredibly high — as though drugs are somehow a better excuse for bad behavior than mental illness. Lawrence is at his best when he's talking about himself — his Osama bin Laden jokes have been done to death in just about every late-night talk-show monologue. But however stale the material, Lawrence's delivery remains perfect; his great gift is that he can actually trick you into thinking some of this worn-out, pandering palaver is actually funny.

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