Monday, October 15, 2007

AverageBro Goes To The Movies: Why Did I Get Married?

[With an infant, I don't get to go to the movies at all nowadays. Pre-AverageBaby, I didn't miss an opening weekend. Now, Netflix is my best friend. So, I don't see things in a timely manner, but when I do, you get the best review in town right here.]

Since I'm not the biggest fan of black men in drag, I'll admit that I also haven't been a big Tyler Perry fan. Maybe it's his early "stage plays" which were little more than chittlin' circuit-level pandering to black churchgoing audiences. I would drag out my old "Negroes will pay $75 to see this crap and don't even know who August Wilson is" line, but true as that as, it's also a bit played out. Reality is, people want to be entertained more than they want to be educated, even by the emasculating image of a black man in pantyhose and pumps. Color me a hater, but I just call em' like I see em'.

As a result, I didn't jump on board when Perry took his Too-Wong Foo routine to the big screen either. I eventually saw one of the Madea movies in the barbershop (read: captive audience), and it more or less confirmed what I thought of the stageplays: more pandering.

One thing I'll give Perry lots of credit for however, is knowing his audience and having a master plan. In early interviews, while defending the "art" of his plays, he was pretty insistent about having a longterm goal of getting quality movies made for black audiences, and also knew that he needed a moneymaking track record for Hollywood to take him seriously. This plan started to flesh out a bit earlier this year with the movie Daddy's Little Girls, which I didn't see in theaters (sorry), but caught later on Netflix. It was a movie even I couldn't criticize: it was well acted, sensible, and had a message. I guess Perry's Master Plan for Domination of the Black Wallet has finally come to fruition, because he (and AverageFamily) convinced me to fork over my hard earned cash for Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married? this weekend.

Why Did I Get Married? is more or less an urban version of the seminal 80's movie The Big Chill. I can't say for sure, since I don't know these sorts of things, but like Perry's other movies, it is likely a film adaptation of one of his stage plays. Anyways, the movie centers around four married couples who convene in the mountains of Colorado for an annual couples retreat. The cast of characters slaps you with one-sided stereotypes from the jump. There's the uptight, too perfect family with a thinly veiled secret (Janet Jackson and Malik Yoba). The doctor/lawyer couple (Perry and Sharon Leal) with serious intimacy issues. The controlling ghetto bunny hairstylist and coochie-whipped ne'r-do-well unemployed husband (Tasha Smith and Michael-Jai White). And for guaranteed audience sympathy, the evil verbally abusive husband and binge eating wife (Richard T. Jones and Jill Scott) who clearly shouldn't be together and inexplicably bring along an attractive 3rd wheel (newcomer Denise Boutte). It doesn't take a rocket scientist to sniff out the villains and super-sympathetic heroes here. The plot seems predictable from the jump, but just when you think you've got it all figured out, the movie throws a few more surprises at you in a particularly memorable dinner scene. Much of the talk/depictions of marital woes that the characters experience are thankfully foreign to me, but it all adds up to an interesting movie with some good laughs and food for thought.

The movie works because its' ensemble cast plays to its' strengths (namely Smith, who is easily the star here) and downplays its' weak links (Jackson and Perry). Using lesser known actors is usually the hallmark of a straight-to-DVD flick, but most of the cast here will be familiar to you from somewhere else. Jackson has grown from the unsure cue card murderer in Poetic Justice, to a serviceable actress. However, as she gets closer and closer to age 50, years and years of rhinoplasty are starting to show their mark. There were some scenes where I didn't know if I was watching Miss Jackson or Papa Joe. Close shots are not her friend anymore, but she's still fun to watch. Even better, Perry doesn't show up in a dress or pancake makeup at any point in the movie. I guess we can all evolve.

Overall, Why Did I Get Married? is a pretty good movie, and if nothing else, it shows how Perry's persistence has allowed his productions to evolve from Amos and Andy level cooning to a fairly substantial look at the state of black marriage. Since the movie rang up $21.5M and a first place box office showing over this past opening weekend, I'd say Perry's new approach to filmmaking is a success. If nothing else, he finally got my $10, so what else can I say?

Final Verdict: Pay full price and see this in theaters. 4 Stars (Out of 5)

Why Did I Get Married? [Yahoo! Movies]

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