Monday, February 11, 2013

The Madea Challenge! Part Five: I Can Do Bad All By Myself

Welcome back to another edition of The Madea Challenge, wherein I attempt to watch all the Madea movies and report back on my journey into madness. Parts One, Two, Three, and Four are in the links provided. Today's foray into the mind and fat suit of Tyler Perry is I Can Do Bad All By Myself, the story of a woman in an abusive relationship who learns through the power of God that its probably a better idea to choose the other attractive man in her life who doesn't treat her like dogshit. Yeah, we're back to that again. We had two consecutive movies with a different plot, both of which I marginally enjoyed in comparison to the others, but it looks like Perry couldn't resist going back to the familiar narrative structure that made him so successful. Its Madea #5 everybody, over half way done, thank Gawd!

Madea Level Five: I Can Do Bad All By Myself

I Can Do Bad All By Myself follows Taraji P. Henson as a drunken lounge singer forced to learn how to be a responsible mother when her dead sister's children wind up on her doorstep without a home. She also has to deal with the annoyingly ruggedly handsome Spanish handyman living in her basement, and her creepy bigamist boyfriend who believes his paying of the bills affords him all rights to molest her new children. Once again, I should remind everyone that subtlety is not Mr. Perry's strong suit. This is not a good movie, and I'm not just talking about the standard Tyler Perry level of bad. Even compared to the others, this is a hard slog.

The first hurdle for me is the music. The setting of the lounge act is a flimsy excuse for Perry to cast famous singers in smaller roles so that they can find themselves at the club to sing a song and eat up some time where an original story should be. Oh, Gladys Knight is a random old lady tangentially related to the events of the film, I wonder if she'll get up and sing a tune at any point. Oh, that bartender looks suspiciously like Mary J. Blige, wonder if that might result in a musical number or two to pad things out. The host of this club literally just invites anyone off the street to just come up and sing, and of course the band always seems to know just how to play along despite no rehearsal with each new random singer. Luckily I'm watching these on DVD, and the fast forward button has never been so useful.

And then, all of sudden the movie shifts from a movie with music in it into a full blown musical, removing the contextual setting of the night club and just having the Pastor sing a song with Henson singing along in a completely different location. Henson's character is so over the top in her stubborn refusal to take responsibility for her life that I can't take it seriously when she finally does learn to get her priorities straight. I know its not always easy to establish likable characters, but its almost as if Perry is going out of his way here to make everyone in this movie completely unlikable, which would be fine if he was up to the challenge of redeeming them, but he never does the work to make us believe it. We're just supposed to accept that God did it I guess.

At this point, I think Tyler Perry just has a bulletin board in his office with various note cards with dramatic cliches written on them, and when it comes time to write a script, he just starts throwing darts at it. Abusive Man, boom, Single Mother, boom, History of Childhood Molestation, bulls eye! Then, once he has enough hits, he just takes these elements and shuffles them together into a script that's just different enough to justify a new title, but not different enough to actually qualify as anything close to a new story. How he gets away with this without his fan base getting sick of it is astonishing to me. This is the third movie out of five with the same basic story structure. I get enjoying the first one, but by this point, does no one even bring up the fact that he's telling the same story over and over again?

Madea is once again relegated to wise old side character, though to be fair, I'd at least say her connection to the A story is a bit more concrete this time around than it was in Madea Goes To Jail. She's still a stranger, but at least she has some legitimate reason to be involved with these peoples' lives. I'd say her involvement is once again the best part of the movie, if only because there is otherwise so little to find entertaining, but its just so much more of the same. She's angry, she threatens violence, she dispenses wisdom, etc, etc. She isn't in the movie nearly as long as she was last time, and neither she nor her brother who I actually thought I was growing to enjoy have any clear moments to shine. Its like they're just there to remind us its a Madea movie, as if the retread of every other Madea movie wasn't enough of a reminder.

I feel kind of strange advising people not to watch this movie, as its old enough that I imagine anyone who wanted to see it already has, and if you haven't chances are its because you know enough not to want to. In any case, if there's anyone out there still on the fence, please, for the sake of your sanity, stay away from I Can Do Bad All By Myself. If you must watch a Madea movie, watch Madea Goes To Jail, which is still the only one I've found to be even marginally worthwhile. And even that wasn't very good.

Why am I doing this again?

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