From his early days doing stand-up comedy -- appearing on Star Search and the groundbreaking HBO series Def Comedy Jam -- right up until 2008, Martin Lawrence has been making people laugh. Sure, his audience may have changed over the last 20 years, but he's still starring in #1 movies (look no further than last year's Wild Hogs). In celebration of the DVD release of Lawrence's latest film, Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins (out Tuesday, June 17th), ShowbizMonkeys.com is looking back at that 20 year career to list Lawrence's five best roles. And no, the list doesn't include Roscoe Jenkins -- that would be too easy, and you all know ShowbizMonkeys.com doesn't roll that way.
In his second of (unfortunately) many mis-matched buddy comedies, Martin Lawrence didn't match the hilarity or success of 1997's Nothing to Lose, but his pairing with Luke Wilson in Blue Streak still worked on a lot of levels. Lawrence's Miles was once again a criminal, but an ex-con pretending to be a police officer can lead to some pretty funny results, and here it did. Sure, the plot was fairly predictable and straight-forward, but it was just a means to an end -- an excuse to let Martin Lawrence shine in the type of zany role he excelled at.
Martin Lawrence may have played several silly and quite funny characters on his 90s FOX sitcom Martin -- including Mama Payne, Otis, Roscoe, and white guy Bob -- but it was the show's main character that was the most consistently entertaining. Martin Payne helped bring a different audience to FOX through five seasons (certainly not the same crowd as Married... with Children and The Simpsons) and it really helped to show Martin Lawrence had what it took to star in feature films.
This might've been higher on the list, if not for the almost-unforgivable Bad Boys II. But the place this Martin Lawrence role originated, in 1995's Bad Boys, was a near-perfect popcorn flick. It had amazing action sequences (it was a Michael Bay movie, after all), great comedy (pairing Lawrence with fellow sitcom star Will Smith), and some pretty big thrills along the way. Lawrence's married cop was a perfect compliment to Smith's single playboy from a wealthy family, and the film literally burst both TV actors (as well as director Michael Bay) onto the scene. If you ignore the atrocity that was the sequel, this character may have been Lawrence's coolest and most entertaining of his career.
An extremely underrated dramedy from 1999, Life brought Martin Lawrence and Eddie Murphy together for the second time (after Lawrence had a supporting role in Murphy's 1992 romantic comedy Boomerang). While the movie, and Lawrence as Claude, certainly brought a lot of funny moments to the screen, it was also a very thoughtful and moving film as well. Lawrence showed off his complete range for the first time -- not just in the mixture of comedic and dramatic moments, but also in the fact that the film takes place over 70-some years. If you haven't seen this movie, for whatever reason, I highly recommend doing so.
I'm a sucker for buddy comedies (just look at #5), especially when the leads are as mis-matched as Tim Robbins and Martin Lawrence. Lawrence definitely brought the funny in this 1997 comedy from Steve Oedekerk. I distinctly remember the first time I saw Nothing to Lose -- it was in an out-of-date downtown theatre that was on its last legs (it eventually closed), and that Saturday afternoon there were a grand total of three people in the theatre, including my friend and I. Being smart-ass teenagers in a near-empty theatre, we probably drove that other patron completely insane, but we couldn't help it. The movie was funny and we weren't quiet about it. It may not have been his most iconic role, and it lead to mostly unmemorable roles trying to replicate his style from this movie, but with T-Paul, Lawrence was his most consistently funny. And for a comedic actor, that's what matters the most.
Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins is in stores Tuesday, June 17th from Universal Studios Home Entertainment. Enter our contest to win a DVD copy of your own!
Paul Little is the founder and Managing Editor of ShowbizMonkeys.com. When not interviewing his favourite musicians and comedians, he can also be found at The Purple Room in Winnipeg, where he is Artistic Director. (@comedygeek)