Now here's a strange case. Martin Lawrence is easily one of the funniest men on the planet, but once he became a leading man in feature films, he stopped being funny. With pictures such as "Big Momma's House," "Black Knight," "A Thin Line Between Love And Hate," and "Blue Streak," you'd be hard pressed to find a laugh in even one of them. Yet, when Lawrence takes the stage, it's like the mighty Kong on top of the Empire State Building, swatting away bad press and forgettable movies with the swing of his arms. "Runteldat" (IMDb listing) is pure Lawrence, a stand up comedy film created to counter the media scuttle over his past indiscretions, and also a potent reminder to fans who've lost faith in the comedian.
Shot over the course of two nights in Washington D.C., "Runteldat" showcases a hungry Martin Lawrence. He's ready to spill the beans on his problems (intersection standoffs with the cops, nightclub fights, a near-death bout with heat stroke), and, like his last concert film "You So Crazy," Lawrence has brought with him a bag full of comedic delights. His take on unruly kids, the search for Osama bin Laden, and race differences on "Cops" are the stuff of comic gold. Lawrence prowls the stage with such fierceness and enthusiasm that it makes me downright sad that almost no director (even Lawrence himself) has found a way to transfer this stage chemistry to the big screen. It's a sad state of affairs that the only reasonably good films Lawrence has made in the last ten years (save for "Life," and possibly "Nothing To Lose") have been his two concert films.
There is a higher agenda to "Runteldat" than simple jokes: Lawrence wants to use the forum to bash the media that's been treating him so badly, and he even throws in a rant about film critics to boot. This is the same media that Lawrence claims not to be bothered by, yet this acidic, fuming film goes out onto 1,000 screens across the country, so go figure than one out. Lawrence believes he's received the raw end of the deal in press reports that portray him as unstable. He senses that people don't have the real story, hence "Runteldat." But Lawrence does the same one-sided whitewash as the media, as he tries to joke his way out of disturbing stories of drug abuse and armed tomfoolery. "Runteldat" shoves an "I'm as human as the next man" message down the viewer's throat, and I admire that more than I would ever believe it. Even when Lawrence himself tells these wild tales, it still makes him look unstable.
If "Runteldat" doesn't exactly showcase Lawrence at the top of his game, at least it serves as a reminder the man still has game. Now if he'd only care this much about his film career!
Filmfodder Grade: B+