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Our review of House Of Payne: Volume One, published February 13th, 2008, is also available.
CJ: "Uncle Curtis…why is it that every time someone mentions Janine, you feel the need to tell a crack joke?"
Curtis: "I don't know. She just cracks me up."
Tyler Perry's House of Payne continues in this second volume of the show, collecting episodes 21 to 40. In case you're just tuning in, here's the scoop. There's this guy named CJ (Allen Payne, Crossover). He has two kids named Malick (Larramie Doc Shaw) and Jazmine (China Anne McClain, A Dennis the Menace Christmas). CJ's wife Janine (Demetria McKinney, Daddy's Little Girls) got high on crack and burned down CJ's house. Then Janine ran away. The insurance company wouldn't cover the damage to CJ's house. So, CJ and his kids went to live with his older brother, Curtis (Lavan Davis, Puff, Puff, Pass). Curtis is a crazy and kind of mean-spirited guy, and he's married to a very nice lady named Ella (Cassie Davis, Madea's Family Reunion). They have a son in college named Calvin (Lance Gross, Meet the Browns). House of Payne offers the adventures of this family.
The 20 episodes are spread across three discs, as follows:
• "I Got the Hook Up": A long line of woman line up to date CJ. Which one will he pick?
• "Absolutely Positive": Calvin discovers that a woman he is dating is HIV positive, which makes Ella very nervous.
• "Teacher's Pet": Jazmine steals a hamster from school, attempting to save it from an evil snake.
• "The Perfect Storm": CJ drops by the school to pick up his kids and winds up being trapped in the school by a big storm. The only other person at the school is a lovely assistant principal, and sparks start flying.
• "Sad, Sad Leroy Brown" (Parts 1 & 2): The incredibly annoying and noisy Leroy Brown comes to stay with the Paynes, causing all kinds of headaches for everyone.
• "Weeping May Endure for a Night": Leroy Brown's father has passed away, and the Paynes have to help him deal with his grief.
• "The Big Test": Jazmine is having trouble figuring out some of her math problems and resorts to cheating on her test.
• "Balancing Act": CJ is thrilled to be in a new relationship with Nicole, but he's starting to neglect his kids. Curtis and Ella aren't thrilled about this, because it means they have to watch the kids all the time.
• "Why Can't We Be Friends": Jazmine starts to develop a hatred for Nicole, and CJ finds himself pulled apart at the seams by his daughter and his new girlfriend.
• "Dog Day Afternoon": Curtis goes to the bank to get some cash and winds up becoming a hostage in a bank robbery.
• "New Beginnings": Janine shows up again, begging Ella for help. Meanwhile, CJ is celebrating the finalization of his divorce.
• "Heavy Petting": Malick and Jazmine are desperate to get a dog, but Curtis won't allow it.
• "The Fast and the Furious": Claretha wins the lottery, and Curtis is forced to attend a driver's education class.
• "Gone in 60 Seconds": Curtis buys a motorcycle. Malick steals the motorcycle. Curtis presses charges. Ella kicks Curtis out of the house.
• "Lost Without U": Ella takes Curtis back, though he is forced to sleep on the couch. CJ decides to take a break from his relationship with Nicole when she starts acting psychopathic.
• "I Rest My Case": Malick is going to trial, and the judge is not a compassionate man.
• "A House Is Not a Home": CJ finds a great deal on a new place, but it turns out to be a lot less impressive than he had hoped.
• "Home Alone": Things start getting really bad at CJ's place, so they move back in with Curtis and Ella.
• "The Wench Who Saved Christmas": Curtis has a terrible dream in which Madea teaches him the true meaning of Christmas.
This is a disappointing show, but I'm pleased to report that it's getting a little bit better. The cast is beginning to develop a nice chemistry, and there's a stronger dose of humor than there was in the previous volume. However, the regular attempts to inject drama into the comic proceedings continue to be a weak point, and things continue to get embarrassingly bad from time to time. The previous season gave us cringe-worthy episodes with wacky crack heads and potential child molesters. This second batch never gets quite that bad, but it's still bad.
The most notable example is an extended plot line running through most of these episodes about the relationship between CJ and a woman named Nicole. Every single scene involving this relationship doesn't work. First of all, CJ is not a particularly interesting character to begin with, but he becomes incredibly annoying during these scenes, acting in a very obnoxiously hokey manner. Second, Nicole is a very grating woman with a serious jealous streak who behaves in a very off-putting manner. Third, every plot development involving these two is telegraphed several episodes in advance, leaving absolutely no suspense for anyone. It's a humorless, lifeless, completely uninteresting relationship that is suddenly dropped around episode 16 without any resolution whatsoever (I don't know whether future episodes have addressed this).
Once again, Tyler Perry takes an unusual approach to troubled relationships between married individuals (something he has done in his films as well as this show). I don't know much about Perry's personal life, but I can only wonder what kind of experiences he has had. Here, there's a certain passive-aggressiveness to his approach. There are obligatory scenes in which people try to get back together and work things out, but these are unconvincing when compared to the scenes in which characters aren't working things out. There's an almost sadistic level of glee exhibited anytime someone is able to dispense of an annoying spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend that feels too mean-spirited for this supposedly light-hearted show.
However, when House of Payne does focus strictly on comedy, it's pretty watchable, even entertaining on occasion. The final episode in this set, "The Wench Who Saved Christmas," gives the cast an opportunity to portray Christmas past and Christmas future in a particularly entertaining way, making me laugh out loud several times. Lavan and Cassie Davis really have established some very good comic timing as Curtis and Ella, and both are permitted to be a little more three-dimensional this time around. I still maintain that House of Payne has a long way to go, but things are slowly but surely improving, and Perry is showing ever-so-small signs of maturity as a director (he's behind the camera for all of these episodes).
The DVD transfer is fine, though this show is not visually unique in any way. The sound is solid, with a nice balance between the laugh track, the dialogue, and the music. Extras are limited to a few inconsequential fluff items: a gag reel, a tour of the firehouse in the show, a Curtis Payne character profile. Also, the first disc kicks off with trailers for nearly everything Tyler Perry's name has been attached to in the past few years. This collection is guilty, but sentencing is reduced by 25% this time around. Ya heard me?
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