Tyler Perry is a one man marching band of talent. He writes, directs and stars in his films and sometimes even composes the musical score. He has been doing this for some time now and with each film he seems to get better and better. His latest movie I Can Do Bad All By Myself is one of his best ever.
In the past some of Perry's films have been jarring in their attempt to blend comedy and drama. He would place a serious study of spousal abuse, drug use, infidelity or any other kind of difficult situation as the core of the film but then have his alter ego Madea appear to provide comic relief. The audiences didn't know whether they were supposed to laugh or cry.
In his latest film he pretty much sticks to the drama. Madea has a cameo appearance but it is purely incidental to the story and does not distract. The focus is on three kids who find themselves homeless and on their own at an early age. Jennifer (Hope Olaide Wilson) is the oldest of the three. At age sixteen she has already lived a life full of hard times. She tries her best to take care of her two brothers Byron (Frederick Siglar) and Manny (Kwesi Boakye) but things have gotten out of control.
The three break into the house owned by Madea (Tyler Perry) in hopes of finding food and something to sell. She catches them and after a comical tongue lashing takes them to the home of their Aunt April (Taraji P. Henson). April wants nothing to do with them. She has problems of her own with her career as a night club singer and her affair with a married man (Brian White).
The kids do end up staying with April for a while, mainly because her pastor (Marvin Winans) and family friend (Gladys Knight) ask her to do it. They also provide a homeless handy man named Sandino (Adam Rodriguez) to help fix up her place and also serve as a boarder to bring in some extra money.
The movie is all about the evolution of April and it is a story told over the backdrop of the church and good music. Marvin Winans rocks out as the preacher who is known to break into song to deliver his message, and when he rocks out so does the audience. Gladys Knight also gets a chance to show she still has the pipes. The Pips aren't on view but Gladys still entertains. Equally good is Mary J. Blige as a friend of April's. She too performs at the club where April works.
The music, the story, the solid acting of all the cast make this a movie to remember. But holding it all together is the charm of Henson, and the genius of Perry. These two are a deadly combination and make a touching movie a triumphant one.
The film is rated PG-13 for profanity and violence.
If you are a Tyler Perry fan then you don't have to be urged to see this movie. If you are not, or have not yet been exposed to his talent, this is the movie which will draw you into his fan base. It is totally touching to the mind and spirit and teaches a tale of redemption without being preachy. I Can Do Bad All By Myself can certainly do good all by itself.
I scored "I Can Do Bad All By Myself" a gospel singing 7 out of 10.
Jackie K. Cooper