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.
His steadily eroding box office appeal would be the reason for that. You’ve seen the desperation in his recent films, casting a Kardashian here, a Cable Guy there.
Then again, maybe the studio folks had just left a screening of “The Single Moms Club,” Perry’s latest and maybe last picture for them. It’s interminable. It’s excruciating.
He rounded up a modest cast — Nia Long, Amy Smart , Wendi McLendon-Covey (“Bridesmaids”), Cocoa Brown and Zulay Henao are the moms, supported by Perry himself and the unconquerable Terry Crews. He 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-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 (Smart, of “Crank) is a sheltered housewife going through a divorce. Another (Long, recently of “The Best Man Holiday”) is a working reporter and would-be writer whose little boy’s daddy is a never-ending disappointment. A third (McClendon-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 of “For Better or Worse”) 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. So they meet, clash cultures, drink wine and get all girl-bonding friendly.
The shared parenting wisdom is deep — “You can’t think about it. Just do it…You take it one snotty nose and one dirty diaper at a time.”
Perry’s wish fulfillment fantasies are aimed squarely at women, with a little something-something for gay men (shirtless hunks). Here, aside from Crews, a blast of tooth-flashing fun as a suitor to the waitress, the menfolk have even less to do than usual. The women are dressed up and coiffed and made-up to the hilt, with the exception of Smart, whose makeup looks as if a child plastered it on. And none of the ladies ever look as primped as Perry himself — teeth bleached, nary a whisker on his perfectly-trimmed beard out of place.
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.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some sexual material and thematic elements
Cast: Nia Long, Tyler Perry, Amy Smart, Terry Crews, Cocoa Brown, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Zulay Henao
Credits: Written and directed by Tyler Perry. A Lionsgate release.
Running time: 1:50