Having achieved success on TV with the sitcom "Martin," and as host of the pay-cable comedy showcase "Russell Simmons' Def Comedy Jam," comedian Martin Lawrence takes to the concert stage for his first starring feature. Lawrence is a gifted performer, but his material suffers from an
adolescent attachment to crudely drawn sexual themes, particularly anal and oral sex, which are occasionally outrageous but rarely funny.
On the stage at New York's Brooklyn Academy of Music, Lawrence performs a feature-length monologue before a live audience. In the early sections, he touches on a wide range of topics, including racism, the LA riots of 1992, media coverage of same, masturbation, prison rape, drunkenness,
marijuana, crack cocaine, and a little of his personal background, including some of the hard facts of poverty and his resentment of his absent father. He then tells a series of lengthy stories, acting out the parts of the various characters. The first, involving a conversation between two
pot-smoking buddies, culminates in the revelation of one friend's sexual attraction to the other. Other stories center on relationships and the different expectations men and women bring to courtship and living together. One, told mostly from a woman's point of view, follows a young man's
elaborate courtship. At first, he lavishes attention, courtesies, and gifts on the woman; gradually, however, he reaches a level of possessiveness that is, in Lawrence's words, "crazy and deranged." Lawrence finally returns to more graphic sexual and scatological subjects, including flatulence,
orgasms, and premature ejaculation, before concluding with a lengthy take on feminine hygiene.
Martin Lawrence means to evoke Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy in his frank, sometimes scurrilous treatment of sex, relationships, and racism. He knows how to use the stage, is adept at physical comedy, and displays a remarkable dramatic empathy for women. However, his unusual willingness to adopt
the woman's viewpoint is compromised by his preoccupation with sexual habits and hygiene, as when he takes to task women who don't clean their private parts--front and back--adequately enough to suit him. While the film is well shot and fast-paced, it's never very funny. Lawrence does well when he
touches on serious subjects, but the bulk of his material is sexual and scatological. Lacking both Murphy's flawless stage delivery and the solid core of painful experience that fueled Pryor's comedy, Martin Lawrence has a long way to go before he can fill their shoes.
When the MPAA insisted on an NC-17 rating for this film, Miramax, the film's original distributor, dropped it. The Samuel Goldwyn Company picked it up and released it unrated. While the material is incredibly vulgar at times, it is ultimately more childish than adult-oriented and offers little
that an R rating wouldn't have covered. (Extreme profanity.)
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- Released: 1994
- Rating: NC-17
- Review: Having achieved success on TV with the sitcom "Martin," and as host of the pay-cable comedy showcase "Russell Simmons' Def Comedy Jam," comedian Martin Lawrence takes to the concert stage for his first starring feature. Lawrence is a gifted performer, but… (more)