Before seeing this movie, Judge Michael Rankins thought of Tyler Perry as "those two guys from Aerosmith."
Prepare for love. Brace for war.
It's the follow-up to writer-director-star Tyler Perry's 2007 opus, Why Did I Get Married? But then, you probably figured that out.
Facts of the Case
For the benefit of those joining the party between original and sequel, please meet the four and one-half couples who comprise our dramatis personae:
• Terry and Dianne (Tyler Perry; Sharon Leal, Dreamgirls) are the perfect couple, but one of them harbors a secret.
• Sheila and Troy (Jill Scott, The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency; Lamman Rucker, from the TV version of Perry's Meet The Browns) are the poor couple, but it's Sheila's ex-husband Mike (Richard T. Jones, Vantage Point) who's keeping a secret.
Before the next two hours are over, everyone's secrets will come to light. Will the audience remain awake for the revelations? That's my secret.
By now, even people who've never seen any of the films he has written and directed (and frequently starred in) or any of the TV series he produces know who Tyler Perry is—a one-man cottage entertainment industry whose primary market can be broadly described as the African-American religious community. Although this reviewer fits, more or less, into that general demographic, my entire previous experience with Mr. Perry's work was limited to his cameo appearance in J.J. Abrams's Star Trek (2009) reboot. There's good reason for that—Star Trek: The Original Series I love; romantic comedies, drag slapstick, and morality plays…not so much.
Which was, ironically enough, the reason I was intrigued to see Why Did I Get Married Too?—does Tyler Perry live up to his box office? And is his work—narrowcast as it is—as critic-proof as one often hears? The answer to both of these questions, as with so many questions in life, is "Sort of."
Why Did I Get Married Too? suffers from an abundance of weaknesses: too many characters, too many subplots (several of which simply vanish into the ether without resolution), too much reliance on the audience's prior knowledge of the personnel from the original film, too much paint-by-numbers filmmaking, and far too much running time for a movie this lightweight. Cut the cast and the length by one-third each, and instantly you've made a (somewhat) better picture. Run the screenplay through the laptop of a capable script doctor, and the result might even be memorable. In the hands of an auteur who doesn't seem to know when to quit, however, this film is a tedious mess.
Perry's filmmaking style reminds one of an individual who believes that he or she is a gourmet chef by virtue of having eaten in a number of fine-dining restaurants. Perry strikes me as a guy who's probably watched a ton of movies (mostly made-for-TV movies), and on that basis, is confident that he can write and direct. And he probably could, given training and practice—I mean, he's doing it now, obviously, but not as proficiently as his innate talent might enable were it more disciplined.
As it is, Perry's sense of pacing and narrative flow leaves much to be desired. He stops his story dead far too frequently to allow his characters to sermonize. His multiple plot threads collide, rather than coordinate, and often never get tied together. In some scenes, Perry appears at a loss as to how to frame the image in the camera. The two climactic sequences in the film, for example, are so awkwardly staged that the audience isn't certain what happened in either case until the following scene. At the movie's conclusion, Perry ruins what should have been an uplifting final note with a bizarre celebrity cameo that jars the viewer out of the story before it's even over.
Having said all that, I can also comprehend why Perry's devoted fans might enjoy Why Did I Get Married Too? The ensemble cast, including Perry himself, is appealing—much more than the material would warrant. The story, while told in an obvious manner that drives its points home with jackhammer force, touches on universal themes and teaches positive life lessons. Perry has a genuinely charming way with dialogue, at least when he's not allowing it to devolve into ham-handed lecture. And let's be honest—Hollywood isn't exactly serving up a surfeit of movies featuring African-American leads not named Denzel, Morgan, or Halle. Perry's artistry may be more akin to the piano stylings of Jerry Lee Lewis than those of Vladimir Horowitz, but he understands with certainty the notes that will resonate with his fan base, and he plays every last one for all it's worth.
It's puzzling, though, that as in tune as Perry is with his audience's sensibilities, he doesn't seem to respect their intelligence as highly. He foists upon their eyes and ears characters that aren't merely cardboard stereotypes, but are also gratingly unlikeable. Almost without exception, Perry's women are temperamental, manipulative, and shrill. His men are correspondingly clueless, emasculated, and ineffectual. Both genders exhibit behaviors and utter speeches that make no sense—not in the "humans are illogical" way, but in the "who's writing this nonsense?" way. Seeing such obnoxious, haphazardly scripted roles being portrayed by these attractive and engaging actors creates the worst kind of disconnect. The only people in the entire film with whom I'd care to spend extended time are a predictably sagacious elderly couple played by Cicely Tyson and Louis Gossett, Jr., and they're on screen for all of five minutes.
Which brings me to the mystery that nagged at me throughout the entire two hours of Why Did I Get Married Too? Who, after enduring one film featuring this panel of marital misfits, would think it a pleasure to lose another chunk of irreplaceable life energy watching a sequel? The only person I can envision wanting to spend more time with these star-crossed lovers is the guy whose name comes before the title.
Lionsgate's DVD of Why Did I Get Married Too? comes nicely packaged, and free of grievous technical errors. The feature looks and sounds fine. The overall softness of the visual presentation appears to be an artifact of Perry's approach rather than a flaw in the transfer. The audio track, while recorded at an oddly low volume, is crisp and clear—just be prepared to dial down the gain before you switch back to your favorite cable programming.
One handy feature—especially for those who haven't seen the previous installment—is the optional trivia subtitle track. In addition to providing behind-the-scenes factoids about the production, the track also helps explain the relationships between the characters and the back-story from the earlier film, getting the viewer up to speed more quickly. Given the sheer number of characters and the convoluted nature of their interactions, it's unfortunate that no one at Lionsgate thought to highlight this little bonus on the main menu, so that first-time viewers could make immediate use of it.
The rest of the extras consist of a pair of 11-minute electronic press kit featurettes, one focusing on the female members of the cast, the other (you're way ahead of me) devoted to the gentlemen. The soundtrack's featured song, Janet Jackson's "Nothing," gets the old-school MTV treatment in a video starring Ms. Jackson (if you're nasty…and even if you aren't). If your movie-viewing jones hasn't been satiated by this point, you'll find a battery of five trailers—including one for the original Why Did I Get Married?—to fire you up for another round.
Why Did I Get Married Too? Good question, Mr. Perry. Once should have been more than enough.
Guilty of unnecessary sequel syndrome, gross character assassination, and
general crimes against screenwriting. Media entrepreneur Tyler Perry is
sentenced to the harshest punishment the Judge can enforce: not putting his own
name above the title of his next production. Court is in recess.
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