Yeah, so this is an inevitably long-winded response to Jennifer’s Things entry. Basically, I’ve seen two Tyler Perry films and one recorded theater production, all of which made it very evident – along with Perry’s own admission – which venue best suits his work.
The episode of the Oprah show I got to attend was the one feat. him, Kimberly Elise, Shamar Moore and the “premiere” of Diary Of A Mad Black Woman. Now, watching that film among Oprah, the cast and two-hundred and fifty other audience members might have had some affect, but I doubt it. I immediately (a) liked the film, (b) rolled my eyes at Shamar’s pristine, Boys II Men-ballad-inspired soliloqueys and (c) thought the mansion was so detestibly nouveau riche… big with no character, style or attention to detail. But the film was still good. Great performances, despite the presence of what we now must refer to as the ever-present Color Purple moment: church scene wherein someone bursts in singing, to be redeemed.
This brings me to Perry’s two admissions, one of which will explain why I’ve only seen two of his films: (1) He is obsessively in love with Oprah’s turn in The Color Purple, which is completely understandable as it is nothing short of scrumtrulescent. The problem is everything he does has at least one Sophia line. And. Those redemption scenes. Admission numero deux (2): He started making films so that more people could enjoy his theatre productions without the strenuous touring schedule his crew had been undertaking. …. Hmm…as good as those intentions sound… theatre and film are…. nothing alike. (Take his personal favorite, TCP, and the huge and necessary differences in the film production and the Broadway production.)
The second Perry film I watched was the Family Reunion one which, in a bunch of areas, was the same turn Madea takes in the stageplay Madea Goes To Jail – which was freakin’ hilarious. Huge problems with the former. If there’s a word that’s stronger than melodramatic… it was that. It was beyond the cusp of believability, although (and here’s one of my points) it may have worked on stage. On stage, the emotional energy and investment of the audience gives so much more leeway in terms of what you can get away with (unless of course the film had been dedicated to this shocking storyline instead of just tossing it in as jaw-dropping garnish). The wedding scene was even more over-the-top. Theatre. Theatre, Perry. That’s where you shine. Stop trying to translate these to film, please!
In other overused Perryisms: he’s really pushing the contentedness of modest life (bad rich man, savior pauper), good single father figures. Which, if gracefully done, would be a heralded reeducation to people who know nothing about Blackness but what they glean from Mtv and entertainment culture. (Basically people who still think you can be honest while using types to describe an entire population.) In short. Don’t so much watch the films as rent the theatre productions. Madea is even more amazing when he’s feeding off the audience. But don’t take my word for it!