From The Grio — I’ve always had a problem with Tyler Perry. Not the man, mind you – he’s always seemed like a fairly generous, warm-hearted guy – but the “performer.” I say performer instead of artist or talent because I don’t believe he is either of those. He performs. He is theatrical in virtually every way, and I would argue, the worst way.
His characters don’t speak their lines so much as project them as if they’re trying to be heard in the back row of a playhouse. This may make for entertaining theater but it’s deadly on a big screen where a little dose of subtlety can do wonders.
Maybe it was the fact that he felt the need to brand everything he does with his own name. Or that he insists on perpetuating the played-out comic conceit that the best way to portray middle-aged black women is to put a man in drag and have him traffic in the worst, most clichéd stereotypes. His trademark character, Madea, always struck me as a garish monstrosity. Sure, she delivers homespun wisdom but she’s also quick to resort to pulling out a gun if words won’t do.
His latest film, a sequel to Why Did I Get Married, revisits four affluent couples (which include veteran actors like Malik Yoba, Michael Jai White and Sharon Leal, as well as pop stars Janet Jackson and Jill Scott) from the previous Perry film who, for completely contrived reason, go on a retreat in the Bahamas once a year to revel in their dysfunction and reminisce about why they got married in the first place. You’ll be wondering that yourself as these four incredibly uncharismatic couples alternate between deceiving and demonizing each other endlessly for two hours.
Janet Jackson plays the supposedly most stable of the women. She’s the best selling author of a relationship guide. Jackson is never believable as a love doctor and as the film progresses her story arc becomes so ludicrously campy her role grows downright demeaning. Jackson is shot in the most harsh, unflattering light and her plotline (each of the couples’ stories reach a protracted conclusion once the action abruptly shifts back stateside) has a surprise twist resolution that may be one of the most unintentionally hilarious scenes I’ve ever witnessed.
Still, far worse than Jackson is Tasha Smith’s over-the-top Angela. Once again, Perry pushes stereotypes of ignorant, caustic black women for cheap laughs. I cringed every time this shrill, relentless character was on screen. Smith does have some decent comedic timing but she’s saddled with an atrociously protracted subplot about suspecting her husband (Michael Jai White, who acts understandably exasperated) is cheating and obsessing over his cell phone code that is played out like something from an Amos N’ Andy episode.
At one point Smith’s character even approaches her bedroom with a knife, anticipating her husband in bed with another woman, only to trade up for a pistol that she promptly starts shooting recklessly at a couple she finds cavorting in bed. This scene is supposed to be uproarious and it may have some audiences cracking up, but it completely ignores the memories of minstrelsy it conjures up.