Urban theater impresario turned hugely successful independent filmmaker Tyler Perry leaves his Madea drag deep in his closet for a more straightforward comedic melodrama. And oh yes, there will be drama.
Highly regarded psychologist Patricia (Janet Jackson) has just won a prestigious award for her best-selling book "Why Did I Get Married?", a serious look at the way couples interact. Most of her material is based on Patricia's own relationship with her husband, successful architect Gavin (Malik Yoba), and the marriages of their old friends, three couples whom Patricia uses as case studies during the annual, week-long couples retreats she plans at different locales. This year, Patricia has arranged for them to gather at a woodsy chalet high in the snowy mountains of Pemberton, Colorado. Workaholic Diane (Sharon Leal) and her pediatrician husband Terry (Perry), who resents the amount of time Diane spends on the phone with her office instead of working on getting pregnant for a second time, are the first to arrive, followed by Patricia and Terry. By the time hard-drinking Angela (Tasha Smith) and Marcus (Michael Jai White) arrive, Angela is once again mercilessly ridiculing Michael for living off the fortune she's made as a hair-care mogul while he toils away as a lowly haircutter at her upscale salon. And when Michael (Richard T. Jones) walks in the door, his wife Sheila (big-voiced pop star Jill Scott), is nowhere to be seen; instead Sheila's sexy "friend" Trina (Denise Boutte) is on his arm. The airlines had insisted plus-sized Sheila purchase two seats for the flight, but callous Michael refused to pay and insultingly suggested Sheila rent a car and drive all the way from St. Louis to Colorado by herself. Sheila doesn't reach Pemberton until that evening just as a heavy snow begins to fall, and the small town's hunky sheriff, Troy (Lamman Rucker), recommends she spend the night with him at the sheriff's station. When Sheila finally reaches the house the following morning, she finds the air thick with tension. Angel and Marcus are still arguing, Diane is furious at Gavin for telling her assistant to stop calling, and when Angela finally confronts Michael about what he's been up to with Trina behind Sheila's back, he spills everybody's secrets, including Patricia and Terry's.
Perry has extensively reworked his original stage production of Why Did I Get Married, replacing the comas, guns and over-the-top histrionics with something slightly more down-to-earth but still wildly melodramatic. It's not nearly as preachy as DADDY'S LITTLE GIRLS, but Patricia does dish out enough romantic advice to keep Oprah busy for hours, while the men directly address issues such as infidelity, divorce and the spread of HIV among black women. Perry certainly loves his divas — the best parts are written for Scott and the wonderful Smith, but there's an underlying suspicion of strong, successful career women who question whether they want to be mothers. In the end, everything wraps up neatly when those same strong women finally realize they simply need to be "honest," which in Perry's mind is synonymous with letting down their guards and showing themselves to be vulnerable for their men. leave a comment --Ken Fox