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A Perry primer

Daddy's Little Girls looks to continue Tyler Perry's hot streak

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One of the South's most prolific purveyors of stage and screen, Tyler Perry is most familiar as his alter ego, Madea, a brash-talking African-American matriarch. Don't expect to see Madea in Tyler Perry's Daddy's Little Girls, in which a mechanic (The Wire's Idris Elba) falls for his successful attorney (Gabrielle Union) during a custody battle for his three daughters. Tyler Perry's Daddy's Little Girls was not prescreened for critics, but it'll probably share some of the common themes found in this quick review of his comic Christian morality plays.






Film Madea Goes to Jail Diary of a Mad Black Woman Madea's Family Reunion
Money-grubbing villain A cheating, conniving wife motivated only by her wish to finish school and start earning a six-figure income. A wealthy Atlanta “lawyer of the year” who literally throws his wife out of their mansion on their 18th wedding anniversary. His younger girlfriend turns out to be an unreliable gold-digger. The rich investment banker who routinely beats his fiancee and threatens to murder her if she leaves. Plus, the woman’s horribly mercenary mother encourages her to marry him anyway.
Poor but saintly love interest Her hard-working husband, a prison employee who works double shifts but proves willing to adopt a baby boy. A factory worker and part-time furniture mover who teaches the angry, abandoned wife how to love again. The studly bus driver/single dad/painter who woos the rich fiancee’s poor sister.
Most overt religious message A roof-raising rendition of “Yes, Jesus Loves Me” from prison inmates. A gospel number that features the come-down-the-aisle conversion of both of the film’s antagonists. The line “It ain’t what people call you, it’s what you answer to.”
Advocates no sex before marriage? Yes. Yes. Yes.
Features buff shirtless guys? Two. None. One stripper, plus two trumpet-blowing angels
at the wedding.
Heavy-handed song lyrics Madea’s friend tells the careerist wife to domesticate through lines such as, “You’ve got to cook and clean and wash everything.” The lively cover version of Joan Osborne’s played-out “One of Us.” “It’s so nice to see all the folks you love together,” and similar lines that provide kind of a play-by-play of the family-reunion scene.
Mixed message Madea instructs her temporary foster daughter about how to show respect, assert herself and do well in school, but proves an imperfect role model by showing the girl how to hide shell casings from police after a bout of gunplay. Although the film espouses the value of forgiveness, it doesn’t exactly repudiate revenge, and features crowd-pleasing scenes of the spurned wife physically and psychologically abusing her estranged husband. Beating unruly children = good. Beating your wife or fiancee = bad. Beating the abusive boyfriend or spouse = good.
Preach it Madea has a long speech that’s part comedy, part sermon about the importance of finding and treasuring the most valuable people in your life. The poor-but-honest boyfriend may as well be in a pulpit during his long speeches about how you know when you’re really in love. Cicely Tyson interrupts the big reunion scene to sermonize at length about family history and decaying values.
Quirky detail The ingratiating way Perry goes out of character as Madea to interact with audience or sing old-school R&B standards with his own singing voice. The final scene closely imitates the ending of An Officer and a Gentleman. The way a “Springtime in Paris”-themed wedding features people dressed as white, feathery-winged angels hanging from the ceiling. It looks more like “Springtime in Heaven.”
General Vibe The most overtly funny of the three, this stage play feels like a musical version of a 1970s sitcom such as Good Times. Perry and his cast’s ease and interaction with the audience conveys Perry’s deep-rooted popularity on the “chitlin’ circuit” of African-American stage plays. The best-acted of the three, Diary of a Mad Black Woman plays like a soap opera with frequent comic interludes, but actors Kimberly Elise and Steve Harris take advantage of the opportunity to show their characters evolve. The most sleekly photographed of the three, it also features the most jarring shifts in tone, as if alternating between a slick buppie TV drama, a modern-day Victorian melodrama and a comedy along the lines of Eddie Murphy’s The Klumps.

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