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

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Tyler Perry's I Can Do Bad All By Myself - C+

Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material involving a sexual assault on a minor, violence, drug references and smoking, 113 minutes

Music best part of Perry's stale "I Can Do Bad All By Myself"

Filmmaker and actor Tyler Perry churns out 1-2 movies a year, many of them based on his plays and all with a similar style and theme. A flawed protagonist faces a major challenge, with intermittent and broadly played comedic bits involving his popular Madea character. His latest is this same cookie-cutter movie: sterotypical drama filled many uplifting, often spiritual messages geared toward mostly urban audiences. Nothing wrong with that, except you've seen it with all his other films . However, "I Can Do Bad All By Myself" (which, given the quality of his movies, could actually refer to Tyler Perry himself), has one thing going for it: some magical musical moments provided by some musical veterans that are the clear highlight of the film.

Based on one of Perry's earlier plays, "I Can Do Bad All By Myself" again concerns Madea (Perry), the pistol-packing grandma, who catches sixteen-year-old Jennifer (Hope Olaide Wilson) and her two younger brothers (Kwesi Boakye and Frederick Siglar) looting her home, she decides to take matters into her own hands and delivers the young delinquents to the only relative they have: their aunt April (Taraji P. Henson). Initially wanting nothing to do with the kids, April learns along the way that she can change her old ways and become a better person. But it takes a lot of work and the help of a handsome Mexican immigrant ("CSI Miami's" Adam Rodriguez) who moves in with April to push her to change.

Pale, predictable, standard Tyler Perry fluff, though it helps that Oscar nominee Henson ("The Curious Case of Benjamin Button") is easily charming and likable, as is Rodriguez, even if their characters are woeful stereotypes that Perry so typically writes. But one thing that Perry did right this time was his casting of veteran R&B singers Gladys Knight and Mary J. Blige and gospel singer Marvin Winans (of the renowned Winans family) in minor parts and then having them each sing songs in the movie. They provide the most memorable parts of "I Can Do Bad" and create a magic that you normally don't find in Perry's movies.

Up first is Gladys Knight (sans the Pips), who'll bring tears to your eyes in a wistful, emotional version of Otis Redding's "The Need to Be." If that isn't enough, prepare to have your socks knocked off when Mary J. Blige takes the stage to sing the showstopping title tune "I Can Do Bad." Then Winans, backed by a choir (and with help from Knight), sings the heavenly, stirring "Just Don't Wanna Know/Over It Now." Never mind that Perry badly integrates these songs into the movie (particularly Blige's, who somehow manages to change clothes mid-song), just let the music take you away.

There's no taking away that Perry is a gifted performer, with Madea (who's a terrible role model, by the way) broadly stealing scenes left and right, but as a filmmaker he's sloppy and his scenes and characters lack polish and development, not to mention an overdone, overly predictable ending that'll come as no surprise. Henson is a lovely actress and I can watch her do anything, but I'd imagine she could rip through the screen with far better material.

"I Can Do Bad All By Myself," like Perry's other efforts, will be a modest hit and moneymaker for the proflic (and now very wealthy) performer, whose films are rarely screened for critics because his audiences will turn out regardless of the reviews. This time, the only thing worth seeing is the music. Or better yet, skip the film and buy the soundtrack, a much more satisfying purchase.