Who’s In It: Alfre Woodard, Sanaa Lathan, Rockmond Dunbar, Cole Hauser, Taraji P. Henson, Robin Givens, Tyler Perry, Kathy Bates
The Basics: Rich matriarch Kathy Bates and her best friend, the not-rich Alfre Woodard, stand by as their children battle it out on Tyler Perry’s favorite playing fields: the ones where the rich exploit the poor, the educated and snooty try to belittle the humble folk, and the cheating venal philanders attempt to devour the upright moral people. That is, the moms stand by until they decide to go on a road trip. Because why not? There are already like three other movies competing for dominance here. A fourth won’t make much difference.
What’s The Deal: Taking this movie outside of the context in which Tyler Perry exists as an entertainment mogul whose personal fortune would make any of the characters in this movie seem like Oliver Twist begging for another scrap of dinner, what you get is another chapter in the writer-director’s quest to resurrect “the women’s picture.” And that’s good and it’s bad. It’s good that he aims his movies at an underserved audience and that he employs female actors in starring roles that aren’t simply “The Wife” or “The Mother.” And as he keeps making them the quality of the melodrama gets better. You know how it’s all going to end because it has to end well for the right people, but his manipulation skills get less and less crude. That counts for something.
Best In Show: Alfre Woodard and Kathy Bates. And Sanaa Lathan and Taraji P. Henson. In fact, even small female roles are good roles in a Tyler Perry movie. But you probably knew that already. He loves to write for women and he gives them all the depth that most Hollywood-backed films simply don’t care enough to provide. He casts a wide net and eventually he’ll figure out a way to get the ghost of Esther Rolle back to be in a movie. He seems that committed.
What’s The Deal, Part 2: If while watching this, you don’t turn off your knowledge of Perry’s media empire and his fractured relationship with his House of Payne sitcom writing staff (Briefly: they tried to unionize for health care and residuals, so he fired them. Nice, right?) then it becomes this whole other movie, one in which its creator is the ultimate Goliath trampling all the Davids he employs and his directorial stance that aligns itself with the most downtrodden of its characters smells exactly like the load of crap it is.
Stay Through The Credits: Just to hear Gladys Knight sing a Leanne Womack song over the final crawl.