Hold Me & Make the Bad Man Go Away
Director/producer/writer/actor Tyler Perry follows up 2007's couples' therapy-styled rampage, Why Did I Get Married? with a surprising minimum of misogyny and racism. And admittedly, there's a halfway decent lesson to be learned in this sequel, that is, if you live in a glass house (that necessarily contains a bunch of glass tables, shelves, and decor) and are married to a tightly-wound woman who sells millions of relationship self-help books yet cannot express her own emotions -- for the love of all that is even remotely decent -- do not keep a set of golf clubs on the premises. If you're looking for anything more profound than that mere bit of common-sense, then don't see this movie. All credit goes to Perry for his recognition of what his own audience wants and willingness to adhere to their desires. Still, a filmmaker must walk a fine line between wanting to please his audience and outright pandering to them.
Now, anyone who's seen more than one Perry movie may indeed claim Perry is exceedingly formulaic in that he steadfastly adheres to his own template. His characters remain relatively one-dimensional and never really change their shitty habits, yet they still persist in believing in each other's ability to transform themselves into wonderful spouses. Still, things could be a lot fucking worse because when everything, including the next Step Up movie, simply must go the 3D route, it actually gives me something to appreciate about Tyler Perry in that he's not going that route. His plot structure is also rather unusual compared to most of today's cinematic ventures, for Perry remains a playwright by trade, so he doesn't follow the traditional three-act structure that Screenwriting 101 veterans are apt to do. So, it's not terribly surprising when the couples' retreat is over after two acts, and the rest of the movie follows the fallout of the inevitable truths that were discovered on sandy shores.
Sure, the sequel's premise -- four couples go on an annual marriage retreat and all hell breaks loose -- remains the same as its predecessor, but I sort of got into this shit for the second round, and it's difficult to explain exactly why, during the first hour of the movie, I felt a bit of a connection to some of these characters. After all, it certainly wasn't the charm of the picture-perfect couple, Dianne (Sharon Leal) and Terry (Perry); nor was it the loftier-than-thou Dr. Patricia (Janet Jackson) and Gavin (Malik Yoba) that drew me in. I found more tolerable yet mostly neutral ground from Sheila (Jill Scott) and her new husband Troy (Lamman Rucker), who aren't as financially well-off as the other couples and also must deal with her dickhead ex-husband, Mike (Richard T. Jones), who conveniently decides that paying for part of a timeshare means that he's also invited to the week-long jamboree. Perhaps it was the odd couple, Angela (Tasha Smith) Marcus (Michael Jai White), who endlessly squabble but provide most of the laughs here and are surprisingly well-equipped to whether the inevitable storms of a relationship, who made me realize that I was sort of enjoying myself. While Tasha Smith may overplay her role, she's a pretty damn entertaining physical comedian, particularly in the moments following an "oops" entrance from an endearing native couple, Porter (Louis Gossett Jr.) Ola (Cicely Tyson), who join the four couples for their last night by the campfire for some literal and figurative fireworks. And I bloody liked watching it happen.
Now, the big deal about this sequel was that the facade of Janet Jackson's Dr. Patricia begins to crumble, and Jackson actually receives a chance to express more than a mere single tear of sadness. And boy, does she go to town. Yet, despite Jackson's performance of extremes, what her character did really doesn't make any sense, and there just weren't any consequences to her pretty awful behavior either. Dr. Patricia, a self-styled "relationship expert" and best-selling author, announces in front of all their friends (during the last-evening kumbaya thing) that she and Gavin are divorcing. Naturally, she didn't have Gavin's consent to do so, and she hides a bank account of her book royalties from her husband. When he calls her on it in front of the divorce lawyers, Patricia gamely insists that it is her money even though Gavin was pretty much her case study for the entirety of their marriage. Even though the couple doesn't have custody issues within their divorce, it gets incredibly ugly and really shows the inhumanity of divorce in a way that few movies would dare to do. I'm quite ashamed to admit that Perry actually earns some points here and wrote some damn good portions of script.
Unfortunately, the final act destroys any and all that Perry had to offer with this sequel. It's almost as if the man refuses to let his audience feel depressed by the ending of the movie, so the script shifts from melodrama to what can only be described as an entirely unjustifiable spectacle. Finally, the very last minute of the movie -- which is akin to Perry taking a massive leak all over the audience -- features the most bizarre cameo appearance that I've ever witnessed. If you've seen the Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day, well, it's about that degree of what-the-hell... squared. This cameo doesn't just come out of left field but from a completely different ball game, which was perhaps begun upon Uranus. Amazingly, Perry's audience is so loyal that they merely hooted with disbelieving laughter. That left the few of us audience members like myself -- who, for whatever reason, were willing to give Perry another chance -- literally running from the theater and muttering, "What the fuck?!?"
Damn you, Tyler Perry. You really had me going for a bit there. You may have won this battle, but the war still stands. And, unlike many of your female characters, I don't go down quite so easily. Until next time...
Agent Bedhead lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She and her little black heart can be found at agentbedhead.com.