It was a good run. Well, maybe "good" isn't the right word for Tyler Perry's decade of making movies for Lionsgate. The studio decided to drop its option to distribute his films earlier this month, nine years and many "Mad Black" women later.
Perhaps the studio folks had just left a screening of "The Single Moms Club," Perry's latest and maybe last picture for them. It's excruciating. He's also found another way of depicting women as put-upon victims of selfish, greedy, cruel and no-count men, and reason for empowering them -- single motherhood.
But he is flat out of laughs, and his heartfelt Oprah Winfrey-approved sermonettes about every woman deserving a "good man" and the like feel exhausted and played. Perry has made better movies, and perhaps worse ones. But never one as dull as this.
The women all have their kids in an exclusive Atlanta prep school. One (Amy Smart) is a sheltered housewife going through a divorce. Another (Nia Long) is a working reporter and would-be writer whose son's daddy is a never-ending disappointment. A third (Wendi McLendon-Covey) is a publishing exec whose career is hampered by the child she had as if adding an accessory to her wardrobe. The sassy Waffle House waitress (Cocoa Brown) has a brood of kids, a couple in prison. And the Latina in this stew (Zulay Henao) has a new man in her life but is still controlled by her rich jerk of an ex.
Their kids are going off the rails, so the school hurls them together to plan a dance. They meet, clash cultures, drink wine and get all girl-bonding friendly.
There's little tragedy, no drama, no emotions at all to "Single Moms Club." The culture clash of white professional woman and waitress, pampered "kept" women and working mothers, sets off no sparks.
And without Madea, without any reasonable facsimile of a joke, Lionsgate finally caught up to what audiences have been noticing for a while, and critics have complained about for years. You can't be a "Mad Black Woman" when you've grown too rich and happy to wear the dress.
PLOT Five single moms bond over wine and whine about their kids and the men in their lives.
RATING PG-13 (some sexual material and thematic elements)
CAST Tyler Perry, Nia Long, Amy Smart, Wendi McLendon-Covey
BOTTOM LINE Being a single mom is no laughing matter, and there are no laughs to be found here.