I am a Tyler Perry virgin. My eyes and ears have never been defiled by a Tyler Perry flick. I have not seen Madea’s Goes to Jail, Why Did I Get Married, Meet the Browns, Madea’s Family Reunion and I won’t be seeing Madea’s Big Happy Family when it’s served up like so much fried chicken for Perry’s legion of loyal fans.
When I read Perry was directing the film adaptation of “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide (When the Rainbow is Enuf),” that was a palm slap to the head moment. I’m guessing when Perry signed on as an executive producer for Precious and saw the accolades that were showered on director Lee Daniels, he must have decided, “Hey, I’d like some of that too!”
Perry’s movies are small and cheaply made money makers, but they are critically reviled for the poor writing, direction and broadly-played and stereotypical acting. What’s a multi-millionaire who sits upon his own entertainment enterprise to do? Go out and buy a property that has proven difficult to adapt and try to make a “serious film” in a bid for some critical love.
Character posters for the newly titled shortened “For Colored Girls…” (well, at least it’s not “Tyler Perry’s For Colored Girls”) to be released on November 5. No trailer yet, but are you not entertained?
Or are you terrified of what kind of Negro foolishness the director of Madea Goes to Jail might impose upon Ntozake Shange’s 1975 play? I know I am. As a play, “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide (When the Rainbow is Enuf)” was a fiercely feminist work about sex, rape, abortion and other subjects foreign to the typically sweet and sappy crap Perry usually serves up.
Perry usually casts his films with established actors paired with rappers, singers and athletes taking time out from their day jobs. For Colored Girls is no different with Whoopi Goldberg, Loretta Devine, Thandie Newton, and Kimberly Elise duking it out with Janet Jackson and Macy Gray for screen time. Mariah Carey dropped out of the production to be replaced by Newton which counts as an upgrade.
As I have said before, I have nothing against Perry making movies for a specific audience that enjoys his work. That audience just doesn’t include me same as the appetite for Woody Allen’s self-indulgent sludge is lost on me. Based on his résumé, Perry seems like the wrong guy for this kind of material. This is like the guy who drops the fries at Wendy’s trying to prepare a five-course meal of French cuisine. My fears seem to be coming true that Perry would blunt the edge of For Colored Girls by making it commercial and safe, two things Shange’s original play was not.
If there’s a saving grace to this projects its Shange’s involvement as the screenwriter.
Some people say movie reviews don’t influence their decision whether to see a film. However, when you have a director such as Perry who’s made his mark making homey, simplistic and corny comedies and melodramatic morality plays trying to serve up some serious Oscar-worthy bait, it’s best to be skeptical whether or not he can pull it off.
Don’t get me wrong. I’d be happy to be wrong and blown away by Perry’s bid to become an first-tier director. The fact that he’s immediately slipping back into Madea’s padded bra after For Colored Girls indicates to me Perry isn’t going to stray far from what it was that put money in his pocket in the first place.