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You have to give Tyler Perry credit: He knows how to touch all the demographic bases. The central characters in his newest film include whites, blacks and Hispanics, spanning the economic spectrum from lower to middle to upper class. The only things left out of The Single Moms Club are genuine humor and emotion.
Directed, written and produced by the endlessly prolific multihyphenate filmmaker, this effort concerns five single mothers whose children all attend an exclusive Atlanta prep school. They are a disparate lot indeed, sharing only the problems attendant to raising a child without a man. Struggling journalist May (Nia Long) is dealing with an increasingly rebellious teenage son whose father has long gone AWOL; career woman Jan (Wendi McLendon-Covey) is wrestling with the increasing demands of her high-powered corporate position; waitress Lytia (Cocoa Brown) is desperate to keep her son out of trouble, as his two siblings are already in prison; the gorgeous Esperanza (Zulay Henao) has to keep her relationship with her devoted boyfriend (William Levy) secret because of her domineering ex (Eddie Cibrian) who threatens to kick her out of her house; and recently divorced wealthy housewife Hillary (Amy Smart) is forced to fire her maid and assume the task of raising her kids herself.
After all of their children are threatened with expulsion for committing various offenses, the women are blackmailed into forming a committee to plan an upcoming school fundraiser. Although initially divided by socio-economic tensions, they soon find common ground and become thick as thieves, helping each other deal with their troubled offspring and, not so incidentally, find a man.
And there are plenty of men circling. May finds herself relentlessly pursued by T.K. (Perry), whose sensitivity is matched only by his ability to quickly fix her car. Lytia is even more relentlessly pursued by Branson (Terry Crews), a personal trainer who proudly brings her a funeral wreath; Hillary finds romance with a hunky new neighbor (Ryan Eggold); and Jan, who’s been celibate for a decade, is set up with a handsome divorcee (Sean Carrigan).
As he does so often, Perry here uneasily blends melodrama — a crisis is sparked when one of the children suddenly goes missing — with attempts at broad humor that mostly fall flat. The courtship scenes between the boisterous Brown — who basically plays a de facto Madea — and the endlessly exuberant Crews degenerate into forced slapstick. And a lengthy flirtatious encounter between Smart and Carrigan features the sort of tired double-entendres that would barely make teenagers snicker.
The tonal inconsistency and plodding pace result in utter boredom, with Perry’s efforts to tie all of the loose strands together into a pseudo happy ending smacking of desperation. The performers mainly flounder in their one-dimensional roles, vainly trying to wring laughs and emotion from the contrived proceedings.
As usual, the direction is amateurish, using the constantly blaring, syrupy musical score to compensate for the flat television-style visuals and editing. Even the typical flubs on display during the end credit outtakes fail to provide amusement.
There’s undoubtedly a good film to be made about the trials and tribulations of single motherhood. But despite its canny if derivative title, The Single Moms Club isn’t it.
Opens March 14 (Lionsgate)
Production: Lionsgate, Tyler Perry Studios
Cast: Nia Long, Amy Smart, Cocoa Brown, Terry Crews, William Levy, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Tyler Perry, Zulay Henao
Director/screenwriter: Tyler Perry
Producers: Tyler Perry, Ozzie Areu, Matt Moore
Director of photography: Alexander Gruszynski
Editor: Maysie Hoy
Costume designer: Johnetta Boone
Composer: Christopher Young
Rated PG-13, 111 min.
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