Based on rags-to-riches playwright Tyler Perry's hugely popular stage production, this peculiar and none-too-felicitous mix of Bible-thumping, heartstring-jerking and man-bashing never finds its tone, careening wildly from slapstick comedy to soapy melodrama. From the outside, it looks as though Helen McCarter (Kimberly Elise) has it all. She's beautiful,...read more
Based on rags-to-riches playwright Tyler Perry's hugely popular stage production, this peculiar and none-too-felicitous mix of Bible-thumping, heartstring-jerking and man-bashing never finds its tone, careening wildly from slapstick comedy to soapy melodrama. From the outside, it looks as though Helen McCarter (Kimberly Elise) has it all. She's beautiful, married to wealthy, self-made criminal defense attorney Charles McCarter (Steve Harris) and lives in a Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous-ready Atlanta mansion. But beneath the glittering surface lies a bitter pool of unhappiness. Charles ignores and belittles Helen, cuts her off from her family (they're poor and don't fit Charles' image), puts her mother (Cicely Tyson) in a home rather than allowing her to live with them and has a long-term mistress (Lisa Marcos). Worst of all, he discouraged Helen from having children but has a son with Brenda. Shortly after a swanky award banquet honoring Charles an event that coincides with their 18th wedding anniversary he throws Helen out of the house (and we do mean throws) and moves Brenda in. With nowhere to go, Helen crawls home to the ghetto and her gun-toting, no-nonsense-taking, sassmouth big-momma Madea (Perry, in drag), who encourages Helen to stop whining and start shining. Helen moves in with Madea and Madea's brother, flatulent dirty-old-man Joe (also Perry), and slowly begins to repair her relationships with her mother, cousin Brian (Perry again) and Brian's estranged wife Helen's childhood best friend Debrah (Tamara Taylor), a talented singer caught in the grip of drug addiction. Helen gets a job as a waitress and meets a too-good-to-be-true Christian man, Orlando (soap-opera hunk Shemar Moore), who loves her so much he swears he'd even buy feminine products for her. But for every step forward she takes, she falls two steps back: Before Helen can resolve her anger at Charles and truly put the past behind her, she must let go and let God. Perry is a self-made phenomenon whose broad, shticky plays tap into a deep need for inspirational entertainment, sweetening their modern gospel of self-empowerment through faith and old-fashioned bootstrapping with rude laughs. A nothing-succeeds-like-excess mash-up of vulgar gags, emotional fireworks and a touch of MISERY-style psychological horror (e.g. when Helen gets the opportunity to turn the abusive tables on the newly paralyzed Charles), the film is never dull. But its mix of wacky high jinks and oh-so-obvious message smack of "Jesus was the bomb"-style proselytizing.
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