For better or worse, Tyler Perry is making his mark on the American entertainment industry and cutting a new path for African-Americans in film. We can sit around and debate where that path is taking us, but I’d rather not. I’ve said it in a previous ‘Guess Who?’ movie review that I personally think Perry’s films leave a lot to be desired: plausible plot lines, well-drawn and charismatic characters, elegance. But like it or not, his stories appeal to a lot of African-Americans, enough to give him the financial independence and influence it takes to get his feature films distributed broadly. Each success has a multiplier effect on his film production career and his genre of filmmaking. I wish Perry could make that creative leap and produce a story without predictable, soap opera-like narratives. But maybe he doesn’t want to. I’m sure that in everyday life, there are people who carry on like the over-the-top characters in his films. And maybe that’s his point: Here are their stories. Learn from them or leave them alone.
With that, you should know that previews of Perry’s new movie “I Can Do Bad All By Myself” are circulating on the Internet. It’s due in theaters on Sept. 11, 2009, and I hope that’s not a bad omen. That I am mentioning the movie here ought to tell you that there is a ‘Guess Who?’ romance embedded in the bigger story. Basically the protagonist, April, is a heavy drinking nightclub singer who lives off of her married boyfriend. When her sister’s three kids are caught burglarizing a house, Madea’s house, the matriarch basically drops the kids at April’s feet with the message: ‘Get your life together and help your family.’ Sandino is a Mexican immigrant and handyman who … can’t you tell where this is going? Take a look at the trailer. I’ve included it so at least I won’t be held directly responsible for giving anything away.
This story originated in 2000 as one of Perry’s stage plays, according to Wikipedia. As far as I can tell from the previews for the movie version, there are five reasons to go see the film:
1. Gladys Knight!
2. Pastor Marvin Winans. Just put a Winans in a decent performing arts venue and I’ll probably show up.
3. I won’t be pretentious. The Madea character cracks me up—that is, when I’m not shrugging and acknowledging her homespun sagacity.
4. Mary J. Blige! And for good measure, here is her music video based on the song in the movie.
5. Taraji P. Henson has pipes. She can blow. The chile cu’ saaang almost just like Gladys n’ them.