Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

t's a new quarter so that means it's time for another Tyler Perry movie because the man is, if nothing else, prolific. I think with the exception of 'Medea's Class Reunion' Mr. Perry has run out of stage plays to send to the big screen unless I somehow missed that one. Not that Lionsgate cares because from my vantage point I'd say the man is pretty much carrying the company since it seems like his movies, and the endless string of 'Saw' flicks are the only things keeping the studio afloat. Today Tyler Perry is sending his stage play 'I Can Do Bad All By Myself' to the big screen and it is, without nary a doubt, a Tyler Perry movie. Whether that's a good thing or bad thing is wholly dependent on your tolerance level for Tyler Perry movies.

One night while sleeping the incorrigible Medea (Perry) hears a ruckus down stairs, and along with her marijuana addicted brother Joe (Perry, of course) they check it out. What Madea and Joe discover, after they flog these intruders, are three hungry children simply searching for something to eat. These children are the mentally challenged Byron (Frederick Siglar), his sickly asthmatic and diabetic brother Manny (Kwesi Boakye) and their incredibly hostile but protective older sister Jennifer (Hope Olaide Wilson). These kids haven't seen their granny in about a week or so and somehow make it across town to Medea's house, of all places, and get beat up for their trouble, but at least they get a good meal out of it.

Across town we meet April (Taraji P. Henson), a drunken lounge singer living in a big old house with her married and evil boyfriend Randy (Brian J. White). April is relevant to these kids because she is their aunt, with the kids drug addicted mother long dead and April's mother, the children's caretaker missing. Something that April really doesn't seem all to concerned about. Something NOBODY seems to be all that concerned about. So Medea drops these kids off at April's house because they gotta go somewhere but April isn't having any of it. It's not until the local Pastor (Marvin Winans) and the elder church mother Wilma (Gladys Knight) practically beg her to keep the kids, at least temporarily, does the angry drunk finally relent.

Also in the mix is Sandino (Alex Rodriguez), a down-on-his-luck Columbian immigrant and handyman who the pastor has dispatched to April's house to help fix some things up in return to room and board. Mary J. Blige is in the movie too. Because with Gladys Knight, Marvin Winans and the fine to a fault Taraji P. Henson, apparently Perry needed to jam as many people who know how to sing into his movie as humanly possible. Thank goodness Brian J. White and Adam Rodriguez don't sing.

The question that needs answering is, of course, will April find it in her heart to do what's right by these kids, will she stop drinking, find God, get rid of the evil married boyfriend, confront her demons and find love with the Columbian Handy Man? Yes, yes, yes, yes and yes. And it takes her roughly three minutes to do ALL of this. Hope I didn't spoil it for you.

Sharon Leal, Gabrielle Union, Taraji P. Henson twice, Janet Jackson, Kimberly Elise, and Sanaa Lathan. While I might not be all that crazy about Tyler Perry's movies, his taste in leading ladies is impeccable. Flawless. He has no peer. Obviously that's neither here nor there in relation to this movie but I gotta give the man credit where credit is due. But about 'I Can do bad All By Myself'.... look, it's a Tyler Perry movie. What that means is that you get broadly drawn characters that are somewhat similar to real people who represent extremes. Good, bad, evil, drunk, helpless, sickly... Rarely will one find gray areas, simply caricatures who fit into clearly defined categories. You will also get melodrama, and plenty of it... with that melodrama topped off with more melodrama. You also get the comfortable knowledge of knowing exactly how the story is going to play out so there won't be any troubling surprises or twists to disturb your movie watching groove. This is what you get in a Tyler Perry movie and this is what you get with 'I Can Do Bad all By Myself', with the added bonus of musical numbers. A bunch of them. I'm not talking snippets of songs that cut to segue to another scene, I'm talking full blown album cuts of songs. You get the privilege of watching Pastor Marvin Winans in church singing the 12-inch version of some rousing gospel song. You get see Madam Gladys Knight up in the club belting out a tune with her still powerful voice. Why is the church elder on a stage at a smoky night club singing secular tunes? Don't you worry 'bout that. You get to see Sister Mary J. do what she does two times. There's not even a lot of exposition during these songs, like montages and the like to move the story along. A little bit here and there, but for the most part we just sit there and watch these people sing.

But despite the fact that the movie is painfully predictable, feels as if it were written on wide rule notebook paper and has enough musical numbers that it probably can be classified as a musical, it is still watchable mainly on the talent and beauty of Taraji P. Henson. She has the ability to transform her caricature into a real character and you end up pulling for her character, despite the fact you know already how her story is going to end. Then there's Brian J. White's character of Randy who is the prototypical Tyler Perry Super Evil caricature, but Brian J. White does do bad really well. Almost too well. We're a little concerned about that brother. And while Madea's presence in this movie is really nothing more than a glorified cameo, his... I mean her version of the Greatest Story Ever Told is one the funniest things I've seen in a very, very long time.

I've said it before but 'reviewing' a Tyler Perry movie is a fairly pointless endeavor because his fans are as loyal to him as Star Wars junkies are to George Lucas, if not more so, and Perry gives his fans what they want. 'I Can Do Bad all By Myself' is better than most of his previous films, in my opinion, because Taraji P. makes it better, but at its core its still the same movie as the ones before it. With a bunch of musical numbers.

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