Vacations are supposed to be a time for fun and relaxation. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for four close couples who travel to the Bahamas for their second marital retreat in Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married Too? — the follow-up to his hit 2007 film of the same name. Just as in the first go around, the couples gather to reaffirm their marriage vows. In the process, however, tensions arise, secrets are revealed, and one couple makes a shocking admission which throws the group into a tailspin. Following the vacation, each couple grapples with the suspicions and cracks that have been exposed in their respective marriages.
Doctor Terry Brock (Tyler Perry) notices that his lawyer wife Diane (Sharon Leal) is “glowing” of late, taking a bit more care about her appearance. Salon owner Angela Williams (Tasha Smith) suspects her sportscaster husband Marcus (Michael Jai White) of cheating on her — again — and is obsessed with obtaining his cell phone password. Recently remarried Sheila Jackson (Jill Scott) is confronted by the unexpected and unwelcome arrival of ex-husband Mike, who pokes and prods her new husband Troy (Lamman Rucker). And psychology professor/author Patricia Agnew (Janet Jackson) drops the bomb that she and hubby Gavin (Malik Yoba) are getting a divorce, which turns out to be news to Gavin.
I admit that Perry is my favorite guilty pleasure. He holds a strange fascination for me because I find him something of a phenomenon. His overtly Christian-infused melodramas and comedies are commercially successful though cloying and artistically weak; fun to watch but ultimately unsatisfying. In his stories, characters struggle with real enough issues, but Perry gives their conflicts a simplistic treatment. He’s more comfortable reducing reality — and his characters — into the trite and clichéd. His work seems better suited to afternoon television than to the big screen. Still, I make it a point to see all his films, even though I know what to expect. Perry has established his formula and sticks to it. And therein lies the problem — he’s too consistent.
Thankfully, Why Did I Get Married Too? doesn’t shove Perry’s Christian and spiritual beliefs down the throats of the audience while exploring the filmmaker’s trademark themes of love, the sanctity of marriage, communication, trust, and infidelity. The topics — or Perry’s work in general — aren’t the problem here. Instead, it’s his sentimental take on complex issues and relationships plus his ham-fisted style of making his point visually, musically, and dramatically. Also, Perry appears unable to establish and sustain a consistent tone and mood throughout. Subtlety is not part of his cinematic vocabulary.
But there is a bright spot. Why Did I Get Married Too? boasts strong performances, particularly by Smith, Jackson, and Yoba. The talented Smith is hilarious as the virago Angela who’ll stop at nothing to “prove” that hubby Marcus is cheating on her. Her confrontations with White as Marcus are hysterical and serve as comic relief to all the melodrama. However, Smith does go too far over the top at times, and her constant screeching plays like a broken record that becomes tiresome after a while. In her earlier scenes, Jackson’s Patricia comes across as a little too cloying to be believable, but this is partly due to how the part was written. However, when Patricia’s repressed anger and bitterness surface during the divorce proceedings, Jackson pulls out the stops to deliver a ferocious and moving performance. Yet here also, the radical shift from composed to combative comes too sharp, too fast, making it seem like Jackson is playing two different characters.
Yoba delivers the film’s best performance. Bringing incredible depth and subtlety to his portrayal of Gavin, he flawlessly captures and expresses the anger and despair his character experiences when he realizes Patricia no longer loves him. This very fine actor deserves to be in more films.
There seems to be no stopping the Perry juggernaut. His formula filmmaking is a hit with audiences — box office numbers don’t lie. But he falters in his conception and execution as well as in his insistence on sticking to a formula style which — like the antics of his great Medea character — has worn thin. It’s time for Perry to start playing a new tune, or at least, to play it differently.