Three out of five stars
Rated PG-13/113 min.
Tyler Perry’s movies are growing on me, as is Madea, the obnoxious, geriatric nightmare of a Grandma that Perry himself has played in both his films and the stage plays they’re based on. I wrote off Perry’s first movie, Diary of a Mad Black Woman, but was surprised by how good 2007’s Why Did I Get Married? was. Perry’s skill as a director is growing, his films are becoming more ambitious and dealing with genuinely edgy material and even Madea, dismissed initially as a Big Momma’s House clone, is becoming funnier.
His latest stars Taraji P. Henson as an alcoholic lounge singer with a disastrous love life and a self-defeating attitude. When her three troubled nieces and nephews are left at her doorstep, she has to deal with newfound responsibility, keep her cheating bully of a boyfriend happy and figure out what her priorities need to be.
Perry’s films share similar flaws: mawkish melodrama, stereotyping, heavy-handed staging and in-your-face Christian messages that work fine for Perry’s core audience but may make others uncomfortable.
But if you can set that aside, you’ll be rewarded with rousing musical numbers (Mary J. Blige brings the house down with the title song), powerful performances, especially from the female cast members, and a well-paced, dramatically satisfying plot. Maui Time Weekly, Barry Wurst II