Tyler Perry tries to spin this soap brand into a box office cleaner
When last we visited the Tyler Perry world of marriage (a world intriguingly devoid of Perry’s signature creation Madea), Sheila (Jill Scott) had kicked the womanizing Mike (Richard T. Jones) to the curb in favor of Colorado sheriff Troy (Lamman Rucker), a do-right man ready and willing to treat her right. The curious thing about Mike and Sheila as a couple was that they were friends with the rest of this rather large crew of new millennial buppies that included the likes of Janet Jackson, Malik Yoba, Michael Jai White, Tasha Smith, Sharon Leal and the maestro himself Tyler Perry (minus the drag) who somehow sat around and watched Mike dog Sheila out for years without saying a word. I know Tyler Perry is film’s version of Terry McMillan, but he should know that no black woman, let alone three, would stand by as a black man disrespected their friend like we were led to believe Mike did. His mistreatment was epic, even within the context of soapy Tyler Perry melodrama.
And yet, here we are again, three years later for more bonding, emotional beating and questioning about the institution of marriage sweetened with broad humorous hijinks that rubs abrasively up against the drama leaving raw red narrative sores that any competent screenwriter would treat with better transitional balms. Therein lies the crux of the Tyler Perry dilemma. I have argued for some time now that Perry, who began his career on the chitlin theater circuit with morality plays that aimed for the back rows of black churches and community theaters, has made strides as a filmmaker with each movie. He is far more comfortable using and moving the camera around to get inside his stories and the settings, which has also allowed him to expand the frame beyond the flat stages where he got his start.
Of course, now, he needs to realize that film requires more subtlety from a narrative standpoint. The broad laughs that targeted the back rows required audience participation to feed the performers onstage, to puff up the glorious righteousness of these stereotypes into something resembling three-dimensional characters. Movies and the actors in them don’t have the luxury of such call and response, which means the majority of the work in creating characters that can be transformed into real people needs to exist on the page and that is where Perry had better spend some time boning up. His next project, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf, is a real stretch in that it is an African-American literary and theater classic, but more importantly, it just might teach him a thing or two about how to balance story and character along with humor and drama. These kinds of marriages, the unions of thought and theme, are vital to longevity in the film industry. Further, without solid foundations, you end up with bitterness and acrimony and questions like why did I pay all this money to see another crappy Tyler Perry movie?
Why Did I Get Married Too? can be seen at Showcase Cinemas Dayton South, Showcase Cinemas Huber Heights and more