Tyler Perry's I Can Do Bad All by Myself

Release Date: September 11, 2009

I was too in Star Trek! Don't make me tell you again!

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A friend of mine once referred to Tyler Perry as the "new Woody Allen". I'm not completely sure what he meant by that, but I took it to be an allusion to a certain "slice of life/social commentary" style of film making, conceived primarily from the perspective of a particular class of American society. To be honest, I think I get it; I just don't necessarily agree with it. Perry's work certainly does advance a very human quality, always in an effort to portray realistic stories of personal and family drama from – in Perry's case - an African-American point of view.

But it also contains a curious mixture of drama, low brow humor, religious faith and romance quite unlike anything from anyone else in film today. Sometimes it works well, other times less so - but Perry has won over a devoted fan base with his unorthodox style of storytelling first as a playwright, and more recently as a film maker. And as a film maker, Perry has certainly obtained a great deal of career mileage from the recurring character of Madea, a larger-than-life matriarch based on a composite of individuals from Perry's own life. A pistol-packing, no-nonsense grandmother with a knack for simultaneously dispensing homespun wisdom, slapstick humor and cartoonish violence, Madea does not appear in all of Perry's plays or films, but she is certainly his most memorable and crowd-pleasing creation.

Madea's last film appearance was in 2009's Madea Goes to Jail, but despite the title, she did not figure as prominently into the film as many fans would have liked. But what some may fail to consider is that Madea's best fit as a character has always been as a catalyst for plot momentum rather than as the sole focus of the story's attention. Let's be honest – we all liked Arthur Fonzarelli, but how long would you have been able to watch a show where he was the main character, hamming it up in almost every scene? Not unlike garlic, some characters work best in small doses, merely adding flavor to the recipe lest their more off-putting qualities render the meal unbearable.

As a result, with I Can Do Bad All By Myself, although Madea figures prominently into the story, moviegoers shouldn't necessarily expect the story to revolve entirely around her. As with several of Perry's other works, I Can Do Bad involves a family crisis that orbits Madea but does not necessarily belong to her. What they can expect is Perry's trademark blend of off-the-wall humor, disjunct dramatic cues and over-the-top physical comedy. And of course, they can expect Madea's unique brand of gun toting, fun loving family counseling.

Curiously, while I Can Do Bad is not Tyler Perry's first film using Madea, it was his first play featuring the character. I am unaware of the reasoning behind the films being made out of sequence, but each of Perry's works are self-contained stories with varying casts, and one need not have seen one to understand another. As a matter of fact, one of the more gratifying aspects of Perry as a film maker is his tendency to work on multiple projects with a variety of actors, as well as to re-introduce us to performers of note we may not have seen in quite some time. Perry's sense of loyalty and his devotion to his craft are well known and he continues to live up to his reputation in casting for I Can Do Bad. Fans will recognize familiar faces from past Tyler Perry productions such as Taraji Henson and Brian White, and in the tradition of Cicely Tyson and Louis Gossett. Jr., the devoted should be on the lookout for another distinguished guest appearance in I Can Do Bad.

For those who are not yet familiar with Tyler Perry's work, I can say that like Woody Allen, there are aspects to and messages within his work that are accessible to anyone, regardless of background. But while comparing one film maker to another is often a useful reference, just as frequently it is intellectually careless. While in my opinion his message doesn't always strike the mark dead on, one thing for certain is that there are currently no other mainstream film makers whose take on the black experience in America and the human condition in general is more unique and accessible than Tyler Perry's. Whether you come away impressed or underwhelmed, if you are a fan of cinema, you'd do well to sample his work at least once. Regardless of our individual origins, we all have families and the fact that they struggle at times is a conversation in which we can all share. And while that discussion may not be one where we all agree, it is one that needs as many voices as possible. (Bruce Hall/BOP)

Vital statistics for Tyler Perry's I Can Do Bad All by Myself
Main Cast Tyler Perry, Taraji P. Henson, Brian White
Supporting Cast Hope Olaide Wilson, Adam Rodriguez, Kwesi Nii-Lante Boakye, Frederick Siglar, Mary J. Blige, Gladys Knight
Director Tyler Perry
Screenwriter Tyler Perry
Distributor Lionsgate
Official Site http://www.icandobadmovie.com/
Rating PG-13
Talent in red has entry in The Big Picture



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