Lawrence, 40, is hoping "Rebound" will help his career do just that. The movie, which opens Friday, is about a temperamental college basketball coach who gets banned and winds up coaching a group of misfit junior high school players.
Lawrence, who hasn't made a movie since "Bad Boys II" in 2003, said fellow comedian Murphy advised him to go the route of the kids' flick.
"It was just us having a conversation, him saying, 'You should do a movie with kids,' and I think it was a smart idea," Lawrence told reporters recently.
Murphy, 44, is the model for the kind of career transformation Lawrence is attempting." Murphy went from raunchy stand-up comedian to movie star before fading. He then made a successful switch to family fare with the "Dr. Dolittle" movies, and now he's perhaps best known among children as the voice of the wisecracking donkey in the "Shrek" movies.
Lawrence had his own stand-up success that led to small film roles and his own TV series, "Martin." He and Will Smith hit it big with the buddy-cop film "Bad Boys" in 1995. But in recent years Lawrence has had run-ins with the law, and he hadn't worked since that film's sequel two years ago.
"I was just maturing, growing up, learning about me, putting my past mistakes behind and just growing. That's it, living life," Lawrence said.
Lawrence is scheduled to star in the sequel to the 2000 comedy "Big Momma's House" later this year, and he's voicing a character in the 2006 animated film "Open Season," along with Ashton Kutcher and Debra Messing.
Lawrence said he didn't worry about being upstaged by the child actors in "Rebound."
"I don't really worry about that," he said. "I just let them do what they do, and be kids, have fun, and sit back and enjoy it."