Tyler Perry's I Can Do Bad All by Myself
Directed by Tyler Perry. Starring Tyler Perry, Taraji P. Henson, Brian White, Hope Olaide Wilson, Adam Rodriguez, Mary J. Blige, Kwesi Boakye, Frederick Siglar, Gladys Knight. (2009, PG-13, 113 min.)
REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., Sept. 18, 2009
One could, rather uncharitably, point out that Perry, a veritable one-man movie factory, has previously done bad, all by his bad self, in some of his previous critically reviled productions. But this latest offering continues a trend toward increasingly mature moviemaking from the actor/writer/director. Yes, we still get Perry vamping as Madea, that hulking, house-coated nag, but only in brief, giggling jags that break up a melodrama about familial duties and self-actualization. Actually, Perry's drag bits are pretty damn funny, as when Madea recounts a Bible story about Peter, one of the "12 disciplines," that nonsensically weaves in other parables and finally wends its way to "Noah's arch" – you know, the one in St. Louis. On the befuddled receiving end of Madea's tale is Jennifer (Wilson, nuanced and quite moving), a sullen 16-year-old who is more or less raising her two younger brothers. When their grandmother goes missing, Jennifer and her brothers are dumped on the doorstep of Aunt April (Henson), a hard-drinking torch singer not at all interested in her new gig as de facto guardian. On the very same day, a hunky handyman immigrant named Sandino (CSI: Miami's Rodriguez) comes on as April's basement boarder, and suddenly, very reluctantly, April must kick open the doors to both her home and her deeply hardened heart. But not at first: If Henson (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) weren't such a likable screen presence, her character would be difficult to tolerate, so screechy and unsympathetic is she. Redemption, of course, is inevitable – and Perry frankly takes too much time getting there – but I Can Do Bad benefits from a number of musical performances from a smoldering Henson and co-stars Blige, Knight, and Marvin Winans, who also wrote the film's emotional high mark, the gospelized "Just Don't Wanna Know/Over It Now."