September 17, 2009

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Tyler Perry’s I Can Do Bad All By Myself (PG-13)
A single woman learns a valuable lesson about family and self-respect — with comic relief from Madea — in Tyler Perry’s I Can Do Bad All By Myself.

When the teenaged Jennifer (Hope Olaide Wilson) and her brothers break into Madea’s (Tyler Perry) house to steal, they quickly learn she is exactly the wrong lady to attempt to pilfer from. Or maybe the right one — after scaring them within an inch of their life, sassy-talk style, she feeds them and tries to find out what their family situation is. Their grandmother is missing, Jennifer says, and she’s their only relative. Well, their only responsible relative — they have an aunt named April (Taraji P. Henson) who works as a singer in a night club and, when she isn’t on stage, spends her time drinking and worrying about her boyfriend, Randy (Brian J. White), the sleazy married man with a temper who pays her bills. He’s got children he doesn’t want at his house so he certainly isn’t happy when April’s niece and nephew show up at her house. (Or, rather, in true Perry-villain fashion, he isn’t completely unhappy about the presence of 16-year-old Jennifer.) But Madea drives the kids to April’s house anyway and insists that she care for them while the grandmother is gone.

Standing up for all the not-evil men in the world is Sandino (Adam Rodriguez), a Latin American immigrant who stays with April, helping to care for the kids and tsk-tsking her bad behavior. He is also a congregant at the nearby church where Wilma (Gladys Knight) is a regular fixture and frequent cheerleader to April for living right. At the bar, it’s Tanya (Mary J. Blige) telling April to knock off the sauce and take care of her sister’s kids. Can April overcome her self-doubt and her anger to save her family?

If you’ve ever seen a Perry movie you know the answer yourself. He isn’t exactly a master of Hitchcockian suspense; you know where this ride is going to take you before you buy a ticket. But he’s getting a bit more deft at creating sort-of realish characters. The villain still all but twirls his handlebar mustache in malicious glee; the righteous older lady might as well have a halo. But in between the people have a touch more complexity. And ho-hum though the story can be, the musical performances here — by Knight, Bilge and Henson — are really quite winning. C+ for the movie but the soundtrack deserves a soulful B.

Rated PG-13 for thematic material involving a sexual assault on a minor, violence, drug references and smoking. Written and directed by Tyler Perry, Tyler Perry’s I Can Do Bad All By Myself is an hour and 53 minutes long and is distributed in wide release by Lionsgate.