This week on Not Screened at Press Time Theater: Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married?
After the jump.
Tyler Perry (Madea's Family Reunion
) makes movies for a hundred reasons, and a love of cinema doesn't even make the top 99. He uses a camera pretty much as a recording device, as if afraid some of that fancy mise-en-scene jazz might taint his message or screw up the stage material he's road-tested so thoroughly. But at his best—when his vaudevillian shamelessness as performer and promoter collides with his messianic bent for melodrama—the artlessness of his movies serves an emotional directness as hard to laugh off as the glare of your minister.
No movie that opens with Janet Jackson as a brilliant psychiatrist cares much about earning your credulity. Either you buy the premise—essentially The Big Chillin'
, with four couples airing out their marriages over a snowy weekend in the Rockies—or you sit your ass in that chair and listen up anyway while Mr. Perry teaches you something. As the group's sharp-tongued truthteller (basically the Madea role), Tasha Smith gets the harshest lines and the biggest laughs, while R&B diva Jill Scott as a self-deprecating doormat earns the whoops and hollers her Cinderella makeover incites.
No, there's not a microbe of subtlety, except in Malik Yoba's performance as a quietly grieving parent. The writer-director-producer-star (whose name appears at least four times before the title) would rather save your soul and your marriage than engage your aesthetics. That's probably why every other line was greeted at my screening with a chorus of stern "Mm
-hmms" and "Exactlys!"
The real secret of Perry's popularity, though, is the upstart id his movies barely contain. Every time a cheating heel in a movie dismisses his long-suffering wife, the audience wishes she'd bust a bottle over his head. But only in a Tyler Perry joint will it actually happen.