I Can Do Bad All by Myself is a Christian-oriented romantic comedy drama with occasional drag interludes and several overlong musical numbers speaking to the state of its Troubled Person du jour. In other words, it's a Tyler Perry film: scattered, sassy, corny, heavy handed, and -- for his fan base -- a crowd pleaser. The film begins when three kids (Hope...read more
I Can Do Bad All by Myself is a Christian-oriented romantic comedy drama with occasional drag interludes and several overlong musical numbers speaking to the state of its Troubled Person du jour. In other words, it's a Tyler Perry film: scattered, sassy, corny, heavy handed, and -- for his fan base -- a crowd pleaser.
The film begins when three kids (Hope Olaide Wilson, Kwesi Boakye, and Freddy Siglar) break into a house in hopes of stealing something that will bring in enough money for their next meal; they were living with their grandmother, but she's been uncharacteristically absent for several days. Their scheme may have worked if they had broken into any home besides Madea's (Tyler Perry). After deciding against involving law enforcement or "shanking" the children herself, Madea delivers them to the doorstep of their only locatable relative: April (Taraji P. Henson), their aunt. April is a lost soul who works the night shift at a smoky bar and self-medicates with alcohol (later, in a surprisingly serious plot twist, April reveals a history of sexual abuse). She has a married, emotionally abusive boyfriend (Brian J. White) and no tolerance for the kids deposited to her ramshackle home. When the new living situation threatens to become permanent she resolves to send them to foster care, provoking the ire of her live-in Mexican handyman (Adam Rodriguez) and Tanya (Mary J. Blige), her best friend. It looks as though April has chosen a lonely existence over her own betterment and the future of her nieces and nephews; luckily, there's something standing between this fate and a brighter one: faith. With the support of the church, her newfound family, and a kinder man (Rodriguez) by her side, April finds herself with the tools she needs to make the right choice.
Though Madea (Perry) is relegated to the background, she steals the show, particularly after offering up a mangled biblical story involving Noah and his famous St. Louis arch. The film would have benefitted with more Madea and less religious musical interludes; after all, Madea can moralize without making the audience question whether they're at a Sunday matinee or church. As it is, full-length, sweeping gospel numbers aren't quite enough to withstand suddenly serious topic fodder: the near rape of April's 16-year-old niece and April's own abuse by a family member. Bizarrely, April's molestation went unresolved when Rose, the much revered matriarch of the family, kept silent on the issue. For a moment, I Can Do Bad All By Myself goes deeper and darker than most would expect from a Tyler Perry vehicle – but the moment passes when April hears the church choir's rendition of her grandmother's favorite song. An epiphany is had, a happy ending is imminent, and a deluge of Madea's best shtick is aired during the credits. All in all, for what it is, I Can Do Bad All By Myself maintains the elements of Tyler Perry's formula for success: morality, fun, and men dressed as old ladies.