Semi-sincere sermonizing doesn't suit Lawrence in otherwise reliably funny concert movie 'RunTelDat'
Martin Lawrence proves his brazenly raunchy stand-up routine can still go 12 rounds in his new concert film "Martin Lawrence Live: RunTelDat." But if you like the man because he's funny, you might want to wait for video on this flick so you can fast forward through several patches of disingenuous mea culpa sermonization about all the trouble he's been through in the last few years.
Sure, Lawrence makes a lot of jokes at his own expense -- about his former drug use, his public displays of disorientation resulting in arrests ("They trying to say I had a gun!...OK, I had a gun.") and his coma, his hospital stay and his rehabilitation after collapsing while jogging on an extremely hot day a in 1999. But he doesn't get through the comedy without weighing down his one-liners with incongruous serious moments that smack of more of sympathy-applause showmanship than of the sincerity he intends.
"RunTelDat" has entertaining, if obscenity-laced, relationship bits about "IOUs -- I mean prenuptial agreements" and the laughability of the white wedding dress in present day society. Lawrence segues into trying to reconcile the beauty of childbirth with the procedure's more nauseating elements, then covers quite graphically the resulting upheaval in a couple's sex life and the greediness of a baby's breast-feeding. He follows up with a comedic comparison of infancy to old age and a jag about black parents' discipline ("Bad kids...you gotta whoop their ass!") vs. white parents' discipline ("Take a time-out!").
Contrasting black and white behavior continues throughout in a thread that stays reliably amusing, but the comedian finds racial harmony in airline travelers coming together in their post-Sept. 11 paranoia toward pretty much anybody with a skin tone in between black and white.
The movie's funny-bone-buster is Lawrence's five minutes channeling of a frustrated husband whose lips have been loosened by liquor. To quote a rare clean part of the routine: "Can I ask you something?" he slurs, "How is it you got more shavin' bumps than me?" Then he switches sides and gets guffaws with the wife's revenge.
But Lawrence's concert doesn't feel fine-tuned (what kind of segue is "Who likes sex? Sex is good!") and while seeing "RunTelDat" with a lively audience might enhance the experience, the question you have to ask yourself is this: Do I care enough about Martin Lawrence as a person to pay to watch him dilute his comedy with shallow, dubious, uncharacteristic philosophy? Or would I rather wait to watch on video when I can skip the pontification?