Going into a Tyler Perry movie requires a little bit of mental preparation. To begin with, it must be understood that Perry wears many hats — namely director, scary old ex-con grandmother (Madea) and senile old man (Joe), carrying around his signature oxygen tank. Secondly, viewers must keep an open mind about Perry’s slapstick comedy, which is mixed with occasional deep moments. Perry’s r?sum? includes hits “Madea Goes to Jail,” “Madea’s Family Reunion” and “Diary of a Mad Black Woman” among others. All of these works rely on Madea’s antics to approach more relevant social issues. However, some of the depth is lost in the racially motivated slapstick comedy.
Perry’s rags-to-riches history adds interest to his works. The formerly homeless entrepreneur literally pulled himself out of a rather large slump. In 2008, Perry grossed $75 million dollars in box office earnings with only a GED. His latest film, “I Can Do Bad All By Myself,” features an all-star cast, including himself as Madea and Joe, 10-time Grammy Award-winner Mary J. Blige as Tanya, Motown legend Gladys Knight as Wilma and Oscar-nominated Taraji P. Henson (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”) as April.
In typical Perry style, the film begins with the stereotypical comedy of Madea and Joe in their country home. Within the first 15 minutes of the movie the couple were beating up child burglars in their kitchen. Luckily, this rocky start did not set the standard for the rest of the movie. The battered children were caught red-handed stealing from Madea’s house to support themselves after their grandmother mysteriously went missing, leaving them to fend for themselves. Post-beating, Madea takes the children to their only living relative, Aunt April, who cares about no one but herself and her cocktails.
Through the arduous process of housing three unwanted children, April is assisted by her friend/coworker Tanya, Sandino (Adam Rodriguez, TV’s “CSI: Miami”), her pastor’s handyman and newfound roommate, and Wilma, the local church leader, in taking care of her nieces and nephews until her mother is found.
This is where things started going downhill, April’s crazy boyfriend gets electrocuted and the truth about her mother’s whereabouts is slightly over the top. Throughout “I Can Do Bad All By Myself,” tough issues such as rape, drug addiction and racism are raised to add a little depth to the plot. The idea and intention Perry has to address real issues is commendable, however, the acting — other than Madea and Joe — was difficult to take seriously.
The random bursts of song also made the film seem more like a music video than a movie. With talent like Blige and Knight, the singing was phenomenal, but the contrast between the musicians and characters exacerbated the not-so-stellar acting in between music bouts.
The frustrating ending commenced with a concert-style wedding reception in which Blige christened the newlywed couple on a performance stage. Aside from the corny ending, positive morals were interlaced throughout the film. An emphasis on family support, the importance of self-love and caring about others shone through, helping to counteract some of the more negative views of black characters portrayed in the film. Speaking of race, Perry did portray Sandino, a Latino voice of reason in April’s crazy household, as a caring, gentle and responsible man, balancing some of the unfair Chicano and Mexican portrayals in the media.
All in all, “I Can Do Bad All By Myself” was surprising, as it relied heavily on the drama and not so much on the comedic antics of Madea and Joe and brought up many socially relevant issues, which can’t be said about many other current films like — “Sorority Row,” for example. This movie may have been a winner with a more convincing delivery and believable plotline, however, as it is, Perry’s latest film is definitely a one-time-viewing-only kind of film.
2 stars out of 5.