Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I Can Do Bad All by Myself

Who do you think is the hardest working person in show business today? That individual would be Tyler Perry. Somehow I doubt that he was top on your list. According to Forbes Magazine, he was recently named entertainment’s top money maker, earning over $130 million last year. He’s involved in everything from plays, movies, and television series. But, amazingly, outside of the African American community, he is relatively unknown.

Tyler Perry’s movies have interested me for years. He has a remarkable ability to mix drama and comedy, along with a heavy dose of faith. He displays the entire human condition, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Nowhere is that better displayed then in one of his recent films, I Can Do Bad All by Myself. Billed as a romantic musical comedy/drama, Perry writes, directs, and produces the film. He also plays his signature roles in the movie, Madea and Joe.

Considering the man is multi-talented, no wonder he is show business’ top earner. Let me say this before we get started. You either love or hate Tyler Perry’s work. There is no middle ground. I’ve come to love what he does. He is bold in his willingness to express faith, belief, and Christianity in his films. He never forces the content. It always works organically and naturally. It’s just part of life.

Perry has many critics who have criticized his portrayal of the African American community. But Perry contradicts this view by stating that he only portrays what he saw growing up. All of his characters are based on real people. Maybe that’s why his movies are so effective. We’re all a little different and sometimes weird, and we can relate to that. And that’s certainly true of his characters Madea and Joe.

Getting back to I Can Do Bad All by Myself, the film stars Taraji P. Henson in her first starring role as April. She is an alcoholic, night club performer who is totally self-absorbed. April in an abusive relationship with a married man. Her niece, Jennifer, and her nephews Manny and Bryan, have broken into the home of Madea and Joe. The kids have been on their own for several days and offer up a sad story. They live with their grandmother, who is nowhere to be found. Madea shows up on April’s doorstep with the kids in tow. She decides not to press charges if April will take responsibility for the kids’ actions. But April doesn’t want to be bothered and has no interest in helping the kids.

Complicating matters is Brian, a local pastor (played by Marvin Wynans), who gets involved when he discovers the kids’ grandmother is missing. He sends over Sandino, played by Adam Rodriguez, to help April repair her home and keep an eye on the kids, while they look for their grandmother. From this point on, events spiral out of control. Will April get her life together? What happened to the grandmother? Will the kids need a more capable caretaker? Is there a romantic interest between Sandino and April? Where does the shady boyfriend fit in? Needless to say there are some strong themes in this film.

Also, Tyler Perry is not afraid to offer up a heavy dose of preaching. But it never feels over the top. The message comes in the form of some outstanding musical sequences from Wilma (played by Gladys Knight), who performs The Need to Be, and from Tanya (played by Mary J. Blige) who performs the movies signature song, I Can Do Bad All by Myself. It’s fair to say that the central theme of this film could be summed up as how can I love when I don’t love myself.

Perhaps, one of the best scenes in the movie is when Jennifer (played by Hope Olaide Wilson) asks Madea how to pray. Mades’s heart might be in the right place; however, she is short on her knowledge of Bible stories. What results is comedic genius. Perry knows how to have fun in his movies while, at the same time, offering a serious message. As I said, he pulls this off time after time in his movies. His audiences have come to expect this and eat it up. Sure, I Can Do Bad All by Myself might feel a bit contrived here and there; however, I feel the characters are genuine and interesting. You want to root for April. You have the sense that she is on a journey to discover the true meaning of life.

In the end, I Can Do Bad All by Myself is an entertaining, inspiring, uplifting, and redemptive film.

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