Please don't ask Judge Gordon Sullivan to review any more Tyler Perry movies.
Nothing like a little group therapy.
Tyler Perry is obsessed with families. Whether it's the wacky world of Medea and her family, or the breaking up of a family in Temptation, Perry doesn't shy from tackling issues that most families deal with. But not all families look the same, and on the surface Perry seems to be breaking new ground with The Single Moms Club. The film seems like it's going to be a dramedy about the struggles of five single mothers learning to lean on each other. Sadly, Perry can't leave well enough alone, and the back half of the film is filled with tedious romantic subplots. Fans who felt betrayed by the steamier side of his last outing, Temptation, will likely enjoy the return-to-form presented here.
Facts of the Case
A high-powered lawyer going through a divorce (Amy Smart, Crank), a book editor failing to balance work and home-life (Wendi McLendon-Covey, Bridesmaids), a struggling writer (Nia Long, Big Momma's House), a woman still living in her ex-husband's house (Zulay Henao, Takers), and a waitress with five kids (Cocoa Brown, Lakeview Terrace) have to come together to plan a fundraiser for the prep school their children all attend. Though they initially clash, the quintet all have something to learn from one another.
I watch a lot of movies, including bad ones. I sometimes even seek out the bad ones. I even watched Birdemic: Shock and Terror a second time. I hope it's clear that bad movies don't necessarily bother me. Hopefully that'll give this sentiment some weight: I have rarely felt as insulted by a film as The Single Moms Club. I'll grant that the premise isn't a terrible one. The idea of getting a bunch of single moms together to help each other cope with the difficulties of parenthood is a good one. Arguably the kind of community Perry is trying to show being built in this film is exactly what the world needs—people coming together from different backgrounds to overcome their differences (without erasing them) and accomplish a worthy task, in this case parenthood.
But after having that decent premise, Perry completely squanders it with the most unbelievable plot elements and the most nonsensical characterizations. I'm willing to ignore the fact that Perry couldn't write a non-stereotypical character. So, of course, the one non-petite mother has to have the most kids (five, with two in jail) and have the lowest-status job (as a waitress). That's fine. But there's absolutely no logic to the rest of the film. These five mothers are brought together by the principal of the school their children attend because somehow getting the mothers together will help their children behave better. I might even be willing to overlook a big plot point like that if the film weren't filled with other, tinier bits of silliness. For instance, two of our characters first meet because one is a book editor and the other is a journalist and wants to sell a book. I'm willing to overlook the coincidence that their children attend the same school, but the whole interaction is contrived from the beginning; these kinds of meetings between publishing types and author types just don't happen like that. Except they do in Perry-land, and it's that kind of nonsensical guff we're expected to swallow for almost two hours.
All that might be forgivable if Perry would live up to his premise. The Single Moms Club is a great idea, one that suggests that these women could learn something from each other and be there to support one another. A Steel Magnolias-style film that focuses on women and their struggles. The first half largely achieves this aim, hackneyed plot and characters aside. But Perry can't trust these women to do their thing, and the back half of The Single Moms Club is all about ensuring they won't have to be single moms any more. It would have been fine if one or two had picked up a guy along the way, but with every one of the single moms no longer single by film's end, it kind of feels like Perry has an agenda. Single moms can't help each other out, oh no, they're not complete until they all have men in their lives. Again, I'm not against romance or rom-com conventions, but going out of the way to painfully pair every single woman up feels like overcompensating for something.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
In the film's defense, the actresses in the club are great. They don't have a lot to do in terms of characterization, but they feed off one another in ensemble scenes, giving even Perry's trite dialogue some heft. The men don't fare quite as well, as they are all essentially playing clowns, but Perry, Terry Crews, and William Levy are fine enough as love interests.
The Blu-ray is also pretty good. The 2.35:1/1080p AVC-encoded transfer looks fine. The film has a contemporary digital shine to it, with plenty of detail, good color saturation and fine black levels. It's a little less visually stylized than Perry's last picture, and probably looks the better for it. The DTS-HD 5.1 track keeps dialogue audible and well-balanced with the score. There isn't much directionality or depth, but this is a dialogue-driven dramedy so that's no surprise.
Extras include a pair of featurettes: one looks at the women of the cast, the other at the men. Together they give fans about 18 minutes of material. It's clip-heavy but there are some fine interviews with the cast and crew. Everything is a bit too self-congratulatory, but that's no surprise for a Perry feature. An Ultraviolet digital copy of the film is also included.
The Single Moms Club is a swing and a miss from Tyler Perry. It feels
a bit like a retreat after the racy excesses of Temptation, and some fans
are sure to appreciate his down-home approach to life's problems. Though it
seems like Perry is going to say something new by focusing on single mothers, he
ultimately trots out his usual answer of romantic love. Anyone not already a fan
of his non-Medea properties can feel free
to skip this one.
Guilty of the usual Tyler Perry problems.
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