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Tyler Perry’s I Can Do Bad Speaks For Itself

Tyler Perry’s I Can Do Bad All By Myself
Written and directed by Tyler Perry
Lionsgate, 2009

I took a break from Tyler Perry for awhile mainly because I think there’s a sort of repackaging thing going on with his movies that gets a little annoying after awhile.  His latest, I Can Do Bad All By Myself, is no different really.  It’s high melodrama concerning people who have lost their way and need a good dose of church to get back on track.  Over the last five years of Tyler Perry films, I have recognized that what he does is a good thing, tapping into an audience that is woefully under-represented, and as a movie mogul the guy is a total genius.  As a filmmaker I feel like he hasn’t learned much or grown, so I sigh deeply every time I see a “new” Perry film set for release.

In his latest, a club singer named April (the fantastic Taraji P Henson) has a dead-end life.  She’s a drunk, a smoker (oh no!), and she’s shacking up with the married Randy (Brian White).  And of course, Randy can’t be just a two-timing bastard, he’s got to be EXTREMELY EVIL.  More on that later.  April’s life goes into upheaval when her niece Jenny (Hope Olaide Wilson) and two nephews (Kwesi Boakye, Frederick Siglar) show up at her door, with the assistance of one Madea (Perry), who caught them breaking into her house.  The kids’ mom is dead, and their primary guardian, their grandma, has gone missing for the last four days.  And of course the mom died because she was a crack addict, and she used crack when she carried one of the boys, and the other boy has asthma and diabetes, and the girl was once traded for crack.  We never figure out how that deal was reneged.  I think Perry just wanted to pile on some more grief.

The church down the street sends a volunteer worker named Sandino (Adam Rodriguez) to April’s house to help with things in exchange for room and board.  Of course Sandino begins to touch the lives of those around him, and of course the married jerk Randy has to call him “Mexico” and endlessly taunt him whenever he’s on screen, smoking a cigarette with a wide-eyed daring look.  Oh, but that’s not all: Randy also has a thing for teenage girls, making advances towards Jenny, complete with candy bar.

This movie is nonstop shouting and threats, with some levity here and there.  Oh, and it’s also a nonstop musical, too.  There are about seven musical performances interspersed in the movie.  There will be a big dramatic scene, “You need to get your life together, girl!” and then someone will go on stage and sing a full song.  But the arguing and shouting…holy crap did this begin to weather me.  A good drinking game is to take a drink after every time someone on screen tells Jenny she has an attitude, or “if you do that one more time, I’ll (insert violent act here).”  When Madea is on screen the movie is always in comedy mode and for the most part, entertaining…but Perry can’t resist having a scene where Madea tells Jenny the story of Peter, where Jesus walks on water, and Noah comes crashing in on the “St. Louis Arch.”  It’s a scene that is played for laughs, and it probably will get them, but the movie seems to forget that Jenny is asking a serious question and needs serious answers, and that she’s confused, and seems to be in a completely different movie at that point.

And then…no one is responsible enough to tell the police that grandma is missing.  And it seems like the only reason for this is so that when we find out, finally (and I don’t feel like this is a spoiler of any sort), that grandma has died, it’s that she stayed at a morgue for so long and no one came by to claim her, THEY HAD TO CREMATE THE BODY.  More Tyler Perry’s Make You Feel Something!  Oh, and it’s great when the pastor ((Marvin Winans) and Wilma (Gladys Knight, who you better believe sings) come by to tell April this news, they are somber and want to be respectful, but get distracted by Sandino and are all smiles…”Hey, how’s it going here?”, “Good,” “Yeah? That’s great!”  Oh, but we’re here to give horrible news…we plum forgot for a second there!

That’s what I’m talking about in relation to Tyler Perry.  I have no problem with the kind of films he wants to make, I just have an issue with how he makes them.  No situation can have enough drama and lurid overtones.  How about April threatening to throw a stereo into the bathtub with Randy in it?  And when Sandino beats the hell out of Randy, and Randy finally makes an exit stage left, he leaves the film quietly.  A character like this, who is abusive in every way imaginable, would in no way allow someone to take over his house so easily, but he does.  After five years and ten films, you might think there would be growth, but there hasn’t been, and I don’t think Perry feels he ever needs to, considering his movies make considerable money and I don’t think his audience complains.  But I’m a white male and not the audience for whom this movie is intended, so I don’t have a say, do I?

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