At Wit’s End


Poor Martin Lawrence. He has neither the charisma of Eddie Murphy nor the gravitas of Richard Pryor, yet he spends most of Martin Lawrence Live: Runteldat sloppily retreading the dick’n’booty dialectic of the former and the pharmaceutical misadventures of the latter. Weakened by Margaret Cho’s recent effort, Runteldat might as well finish off the comedy-concert genre. Lawrence’s brand of ax-grinding vitriol is particularly un-filmworthy, especially as it’s layered with halfhearted feel-good diatribes on living life to the fullest, respecting your elders, the strength of women, blah blah blah (this last as a preface to a gag about banging his episiotomized postnatal girlfriend).

Pity, because when he’s not venting at Arabs, denouncing “the media” with the vehemence of a ghetto Pat Robertson, or trotting out topics so stale he might’ve woken from that coma last Thursday, Lawrence’s wry observations on the fragile bloat of male pride can be hilarious. Director David Raynr captures the audience members’ reactions in perfunctory obeisance to the form; like some of them, you may find the laughter sticking in your throat.

At least Runteldat gives you something to choke on. Dana Carvey’s wan comeback vehicle, The Master of Disguise, is so innocent of wit and drive it seems miraculous that he once got as many laughs as fellow SNL shape-shifter Mike Myers. That was then, this is dreck.

Ostensibly conceived for both children and adults, Master manages to bore every possible demographic. The story, such as it is, revolves around the abilities of the sweet-natured scion (Carvey) of a family of you-know-whats; he hones his skills under the tutelage of his grandfather (Harold Gould) in order to rescue his kidnapped dad (James Brolin, looking lost). Carvey’s bazillion zany characters are onscreen so fleetingly they barely register (in some cases mercifully), while his simpering, accented mewling is uniquely irritating. The film’s only real laugh comes when Jesse Ventura, in one of several C-list cameos, says with a straight face, “My skills were meant for the betterment of mankind!” If that were true, he would’ve put a stop to this movie.

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