When I tell my friends that I went to see Tyler Perry's I Can Do Bad All by Myself, they start mock-laughing because they think that I'm joking and that the joke is lame on top of it. Then I have to proceed to describe the entire plot—Madea catches three stray children looting her house and tries to pawn them off on their boozy aunt—just to prove that I did indeed spend money on a Tyler Perry movie on opening weekend.
Don't they remember that Tyler Perry had me at "po-po?"; that Tyler Perry is a source of unexpected inspiration?; and that he was bold enough to turn one of the Cosby girls into a crack whore?
Look, I know, I know, I know. There's nothing subtle about Tyler Perry films (the good people are really good; the bad people are really bad; the Jesus message hits you in the face repeatedly like an unwelcome Danza Slap), but Perry expertly taps into primal emotions that makes going to a Tyler Perry movie a laughing, cheering, crying, hand-clapping, foot-stomping, testifying experience. (I Can Do Bad All by Myself, as well as most of Perry's other films, originated as stage plays that were performed in churches.)
A few things:
• Perry's hilarious signature character, Madea, isn't in the movie much, but, when she is, it's a hoot. Look out for the tour-de-force monologue in which Madea clumsily tries to tell a Bible story, patched together with half-memories and lies.
• Perry's lead, Taraji P. Henson, is stunning as the wayward nightclub singer who finds redemption through her niece and nephews. She's such a compelling force onscreen (with a powerful voice to boot), and it's now clear to me why she was nominated for an Oscar for her role as "Queenie" in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. (I never saw that movie.)
• When Adam Rodriquez, who plays the pious ex-pastor from Columbia, first appears on screen, he's sporting a shaggy fake wig and beard. After he "shaves" and cleans up, he's so jaw-droppingly hot that I almost screamed, "Damn! You fine!" But I didn't have to—because right after I thought that, Taraji P. Henson actually screams, "Damn! You fine!" I don't know who Adam Rodriquez is, but he's got to be like in the top ten hottest guys I have ever seen. Ai papi!
• Finally, I saw that some critics complained that there were too many songs in the movie, songs that interrupted the flow of the story. But I thought the songs were great (you can imagine how they played in churches in the original stage productions, along with the midpoint sermon) and showcased Gladys Knight (still belting it out after all these years) and Mary J. Blige, who sings the movie's title song, which you can hear a bit of in the promo video below. (And I don't normally even like this kind of music!) Watch:
By the way, I've been trying to get people to say things to me like, "Hey, Prince, do you want me to help you be bad?" So I can start rolling my neck and declare, with sass, "No! I can do bad all by myself!" Try it the next time you see me.