From the Editor

Movie Review Archive

Thank you for checking out my movie review archive. I'm in the process of transitioning to something else, so I will no longer post new reviews to this blog. In the meantime, I will keep these reviews archived; these are from the fall of 2008 to April 2011. Please watch this blog for more info and keep in touch (you can still find me on Facebook and Twitter). Here's to more great movies!

Wes Singleton

North Texas Film Critics Association

Friday, January 2, 2009

Not Easily Broken - C

Rated PG-13 for sexual references and thematic elements, 95 minutes

Uplifting messages can't fix this "Broken" movie - stale, third-rate drama

Super entertainer and filmmaker Tyler Perry may finally have met his cinematic match in Pastor T.D. Jakes. Jakes, who leads the Dallas mega-church The Potter's House, has branched off into filmmaking, producing the new drama "Not Easily Broken" based on his novel. You have to give Jakes credit, he's assembled a talented cast and crew to make a movie about relationships.

In spite of a few positive messages and some entertaining moments, the ethnically-themed "Broken" needs fixing in a lot of ways. The drama lacks a fresh approach and comes equipped with just about every predictable movie cliche and stereotype you've seen done by Perry everytime he makes a movie. For all the time and effort put into it, it's a third-rate, derivative effort. Where's Madea when you need her, or maybe the Browns?

After years of disagreeing on what true happiness, success, and love really are, Dave (Morris Chestnut) and Clarice ("Benjamin Button's" Taraji P. Henson) Johnson have finally reached a breaking point in their marriage. When Clarice is hurt in a car accident, the obvious truth that more than just her injuries need immediate attention is exposed. Their odds of making it worsen as Clarice begins to see a physical therapist, and Dave develops a friendship with Julie (Maeve Quinlan) and her teenage son Bryson (Cannon Jay). The acceptance and comfort he finds in them stirs his longing for a family and a passionate partner.

It also doesn't help that his mother-in-law (the hardly subtle but always fun Jenifer Lewis) has moved in or the fact he spends time coaching a team of at-risk boys with his pals (Kevin Hart and Eddie Cibrian), hardly a good influence on him. As temptation tugs at Dave and Clarice pulls farther away, they must confront whether their vows are or are not easily broken.

"Broken's" handsome cast does well with the slack script from TV writer Brian Bird and the unoriginal direction from actor-director Bill Duke. Henson is a great talent and Lewis is always good for a smile or two, but the drama is played out in such broad strokes that it's hardly believable. Watch for "Reno:911's" Niecey Nash in a brief, but thoroughly stereotypical friend role. Stale, predictable drama, stereotypes and throw in a few positive messages and you still have recipe for a messy movie.

"Broken" is not Jakes' first foray into moviemaking, the movie "Woman Thou Aren't Loosed" (which ironically, was written by Perry) was also based on one of his books. That film was a minor hit a few years ago and this film will attract similar, urban audiences and should have a solid following. For those interested, Jakes himself makes cameo in the middle of the film. It all plays out in such formulaic tradition that by the end there will be no big surprises.

Perry does this thing better, and "Broken" unfortunately channels (i.e. rips off) most of the same plot line: financial problems, relationship issues, you name it. Maybe Jakes will wise up and just have Perry make his next movie - after all, it can't hurt and may make for a great business partnership. As for "Broken," it's not at all memorable and should be quickly forgotten.