Review: Why Did I Get Married?

"Why Did I Get Married?" (IMDb listing) is Tyler Perry's best screen effort to date, which is to say it's comfortably mediocre instead of criminally intolerable.

Four couples, Terry (Tyler Perry) and Diane (Sherry Leal), Patricia (Janet Jackson) and Gavin (Malik Yoba), Marcus (Michael Jai White) and Angela (Tasha Smith), and Mike (Richard T. Jones) and Shelia (Jill Scott), gather together every year for a vacation to clear their heads. Now in the snowy Colorado Mountains, the couples find this year to be their most explosive, with everyone's dirty laundry aired out over the course of the hellish week, ending friendships and marriages. With their lives now scattered, the couples do their best to revive their love, only to find they might be better off apart.

Last February's "Daddy's Little Girls" brought mogul/filmmaker Tyler Perry to his lowest point. Not only was the feature a cancerous, socially irresponsible catastrophe, it was greeted with his lowest box office grosses yet. Perhaps the diminished reception of "Girls" played a subconscious role in the creation of "Married," because this new film shows incredible growth on Perry's part as a storyteller and director.

Perry loves to play with stereotypes and melodrama. They are his preferred tools to fashion his string of plays, cinematic efforts, and recent television forays (the excretal "House of Payne"). "Married" is another slice of obvious to fit snugly in Perry's oeuvre, playing broadly to his core audience with an expected buffet of obnoxious characters and "Guiding Light" plotting. However, there's a spark to "Married" that's never revealed itself in the filmmaker's work before. Dare I call it maturation?

For the first time, Perry is writing intimate drama, and when the attention stays put between the characters as they engage in marital combat, the results are engaging. Perry is actually allowing his writing some authentic humanity for once, especially in the Shelia character â€" an overweight, humiliated woman fighting to retain her self-respect in the gale force wind of her husband's obscene wickedness. Perhaps this is Perry working with strong actors for a change or the tighter focus given to the story, but I was stunned to witness the filmmaker treat select moments with sincerity and respect, instead of his traditional route, which is to take a water spray bottle and scold empathy from entering the room.

Now, all is not well with "Married." While I'm thrilled to see Perry slowly inch away from overbearing religious overtones (God only gets a few shoutouts here), using said overtones to justify spousal ultraviolence, and a general spread of easy answers, he does allow his attempts at comedy to stop the film cold. Dishing out borderline offensive depictions of homosexuals (dressed in lavender, lispy, and carrying a miniature dog) and Caucasians (depicted as fearful of African-Americans and all white-privilege complainy), Perry throws a wet blanket on his work by permitting such inanity. Characters such as Mike (a one-note jerk) and Marcus (a one-note moron) also demonstrate that Perry can't trust his heart and write thoroughly demanding portraits of spousal misdeeds. All too often, he'll cut right to cartoon for the easy way out.

"Why Did I Get Married?" has so much to say about interpersonal communication, trust, and fidelity, and certainly Tyler Perry is sneaking closer to making a film about adults with a sophistication his previous product was violently lacking. It's still thwarted by Perry's comfort zones, but it is an improvement.

Filmfodder Grade: C