Tyler Perry fans may wonder how his hugely popular movies manage to consistently dominate the box office, yet fail to impress one significant audience: critics.
Perry doesn't really need them, as his receipts prove. He is the rare black auteur who writes, directs, produces and acts, and his movies seem tailored to black audiences. In broad comedies (the drag-based "Madea" franchise) and noisy melodramas ("The Family That Preys"), he offers valuable messages of self-esteem and upward mobility.
For all that, his movies feel more like marketing coups than personal statements. They stick to topics such as infidelity, money woes and substance abuse. Although Perry helped produce Lee Daniels' wrenching drama "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire," about a sexually abused teenager, his own films shy away from controversy or ugliness.
He plays more small ball in "Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married Too?," a sequel to his 2007 hit. As in the first "Married," four couples go on vacation, this time to the Bahamas, to reassess their relationships. Each pair represents a problem: There are Neglect (Perry and Sharon Leal), Joblessness (Jill Scott and Lamman Rucker), Adultery (Tasha Smith and Michael Jai White, entertaining) and a Dead Child (Janet Jackson and Malik Yoba, unconvincing).
Once again, the movie feels amateurish, and not only because Perry tends to shoot on the cheap (the beach looks like a stage backdrop). The story lines ramble, scenes fizzle, the actors shout and weep embarrassingly; nuance is obliterated by sermonizing. In short, it's another production from a filmmaker who'd rather expand his empire than hone his craft.