Friday, April 2, 2010

Tyler Perry should have his directing license revoked with "Why Did I Get Married?" and "WDIGM Too?"

Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married? (2007) 
113 min., rated PG-13.
Grade: D +

In writer-producer-director-star Tyler Perry's "Why Did I Get Married?," four black affluent couples take a week-long retreat to a snowy Colorado cabin to talk about their relationships and reaffirm their marriages. Janet Jackson is Patricia, the psychologist who has written a best-selling self-help book about her friends. 

Very few of these characters feel not like artificial, unpleasant stereotypes and not much makes sense or rings true either. Never would a flight attendant kick a woman off the plane (!) for being heavyset, nor would her husband be rude enough to stay on board with her slim, gorgeous friend (his mistress) and give her gas money to drive to Colorado by herself. And Tasha Smith as Angela, an uber-sassy, hard-drinking harpy, is nails-on-a-chalkboard obnoxious, when bickering at her clap-laden ex-pro football player husband, Marcus (Michael Jai White), is supposed to be funny. But the said heavyset woman, Shelia's story (Jill Scott), is heartbreaking and does merit hope as the central heart of the film. 

Used to grinding out mass-produced clunkers for African American crowds, media empire Perry's latest theatrical play-to-film translation is his most subtle picture with the absence of the loud, shotgun-toting Madea character. At least Perry is an underplayer at times when it comes to being generous to the women, while most of the men are written as dogs. But typically, this one still wildly swings back and forth between moods of over-the-top hysterics and soapy melodrama like a Menopausal woman. 

Preachy writing, ham-handed direction, and screechy performances without being insightful, all thanks to Perry; also casting himself as a pediatrician, the writer-director himself wrote and mouths phony, on-the-nose expository dialogue that lets us all know his friends' occupations. Mr. Perry, didn't you learn in Screenwriting 101 that it's all about showing, not telling! 

Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married Too? (2010) 
121 min., rated PG-13.
Grade: C -

It's been seven months since Tyler Perry made his last feature, so why shouldn't the prolific and successful impresario try and make another mil? In "Why Did I Get Married Too?," a continuation of 2007's "Why Did I Get Married?," writer/director/actor Perry churns out another teeter-totter of broad comedy and wildly insane soap opera. Or what should've been called “Why Didn't I Figure Out the Original Question the First Time?,” those same colored friends from Atlanta take a tropical vacation in the Bahamas at their timeshare and their relationships are on even shakier ground than when we first saw them. 

Like most of writer-producer-director Perry's efforts, "WDIGMT?" doesn't add anything new and once the couples return to Atlanta, you'll get whiplash from the movie's mood swings. Yelling, ranting, sobbing, throwing things, revelations of Cancer and “he's cheating on her but not really” belong on “Jerry Springer.” (At least Louis Gossett Jr. and Cicely Tyson give nice cameos as a happy, long-married couple.) And speechifying about alcoholism, infidelity, trust, and spousal abuse would probably be more subtle, well hopefully, in Janet Jackson's psychologist-novelist's book. 

But while Tasha Smith plays her part of Angela for all it's worth and Jill Scott shines once more as the former long-suffering wife who has a new hunk of a husband, Jackson does prove herself in a strong, powerful performance. Her eyes are palpably painful during some of the more intense moments. But her arc is melodramatic and finally ridiculous with a “Fix it! Fix it!” line and resolution so trite and overly simplistic. Cue the “One Year Later” title card and we get an even more pat conclusion with a pointless star cameo. 

Although Tyler does give his characters a voice and allows us to sympathetize with the women, he's not yet quite a writer concerned with tone or belief in his story. "WDIGMT?" will undoubtedly be a hit on BET nonetheless.

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