Why Did I Get Married?

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This was written for the theatrical release of "Why Did I Get Married?"

NEW YORK -- Where's Madea when you need her?

Certainly, the quartet of married couples at the center of Tyler Perry's new dramedy could use some of the tough love dosed out by the filmmaker's female alter ego. The characters in "Why Did I Get Married?" -- displaying a series of marital dysfunctions that would fill a dozen episodes of "Oprah" -- make for unpleasant company over the course of two long hours. The film opened Friday, naturally without being screened for the press.

Working in a similar if slightly more comedic mode to Perry's most recent effort, "Daddy's Little Girls," the film is set during a vacation retreat in wintry Colorado undertaken by four married couples. These annual sojourns are at the instigation of best-selling pop psychologist Patricia (Janet Jackson, making her first big-screen appearance in years), whose own marriage to architect Gavin (Malik Yoba) is strained because of the recent death of their young son in an automobile accident.

The other couples taking part are workaholic lawyer Dianne (Sharon Leal) and her neglected and resentful husband Terry (Perry); the hard-drinking, combative Angela (Tasha Smith) and her loving but cowed husband Marcus (Michael Jai White), who's trying to keep secret his recently acquired STD; and the sweet but overweight Sheila (singer Jill Scott) and her verbally abusive husband Mike (Richard T. Jones).

Actually, Sheila is somewhat late to the party because she was forced to drive after being kicked off an airplane because of her excessive girth. Mike has gone ahead, accompanied by her sexy best friend Trina (Denise Boutte), with whom he's not so secretly carrying on an affair.

The combustible group soon lets the fireworks fly, with secrets bared and simmering tensions unleashed. By the end of the trip, the couples have mostly dealt with their differences and Sheila has found true love with an impossibly perfect, handsome policeman (Lamman Rucker).

As has been previously demonstrated in the hugely successful Perry's stage, television and big-screen works, subtlety and tonal consistency are not his strong suits. Here, the mostly broadly drawn characters (including a pair of flaming gay queens toting a poodle) and situations on display quickly prove grating, with the film veering awkwardly between broad comedy and melodrama.

The performers don't fare well under the circumstances, with most laboring under the weight of their characters' stereotypical attributes. Scott comes off the best, providing a real sweetness and vulnerability to the wounded Sheila, while Jackson, not really given much to do, barely manages to make an impression.

Of course, none of these flaws will matter much to Perry's devoted audiences, whose support has enabled him to virtually build a media empire. But again, it's hard not to wish that Madea had been around early in the proceedings to slap these annoying characters into submission.

WHY DID I GET MARRIED?
Lionsgate
Capital Arts Entertainment, Lionsgate Films, the Tyler Perry Co.
Credits:
Director-screenwriter: Tyler Perry
Producers: Tyler Perry, Reuben Cannon
Director of photography: Toyomichi Kurita
Production designer
Ina Mayhew
Music supervisor: Joel C. High
Co-producers: Roger M. Bobb, Joe Genier
Costume designer: Keith G. Lewis
Editor: Maysie Hoy
Cast:
Terry: Tyler Perry
Dianne: Sharon Leal
Patricia: Janet Jackson
Gavin: Malik Yoba
Sheila: Jill Scott
Mike: Richard T. Jones
Angela: Tasha Smith
Marcus: Michael Jai White
Trina: Denise Boutte
Troy: Lamman Rucker
Running time -- 118 minutes
MPAA rating: PG-13

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