Forget Madea. Remember the Drama.

Movie Title: Tyler Perry’s I Can Do Bad All By Myself (2009)
Spoilers: No


There is not a single man or woman reading the words of this review who does not have someone in their life who is…for lack of a better word…pitiable, but at the same time, cherished. You and I know someone or some people who exhibit unfortunate or else deplorable characteristic(s), and yet you still have a soft spot in your heart for them. I have few such soft spots, as I do in film. Tyler Perry’s Madea character occupies one of those spots.

A 6’5 400 pound black woman with beautiful silver hair doesn’t bother me, not even when she’s a man underneath who knows how to parody black “ghetto-ness” in a way that is more effective than when Eddie Murphy takes a crack at doing the same. Madea is her own cocktail of craziness, with indomitable self-respect and anger problems: “I will hit you so hard that your cranium, your skull, and your uretha tube will be tied up together inside each other. You won’t be able to do nothin’ but pee and run!”

She’s a match for George Foreman. She’s done time in the big house, but by her own admission, needs to remember to do some praying: “Oh child, I ain’t talked to God since the last time I saw a cop in my rear view mirror.” Hey, at least she’s honest about it. Her Bible knowledge…now that could definitely use some improvement.

Peter walked on the water to go to Jesus, and Jaws was there and so was Eve. A lot happened back then on “the Greek Atlantic Ocean,” so says Madea. But forget about Madea. Madea isn’t the main attraction anymore. In fact, she’s hardly in the movie at all. The story begins when three misguided youths try to break into Madea’s home. They are caught, brought back to the closest thing they have to a caretaker, April (Taraji P. Henson), a strung-out child of a woman who needs to clean up her act as surely as she needs to dump Randy (Brian J. White), the married man she calls a boyfriend.

You’ll likely be disappointed that Madea is hard to find. She serves only to anchor in one small-but-pivotal plot component towards the film’s end. Be satisfied to hear her tell the inner-city kids’ version of the Bible because that’s the only humor that is offered. Beyond that is to be found drama in the struggles of three children who desperately need a real home.

This is a signed Tyler Perry production. It comes from his play (and perhaps should have stayed one). It has the heavy-drama-on-light-comedy thing going for it as we’ve come to expect from Perry, and all the necessary elements of the story are tied together in a more than respectable way. In addition, we have fine performances on everyone’s part.

It is therefore a shame that with such finesse-full writing and fine-tooth-comb attention to detail that audiences must be warned about being trampled to death by painfully long church choir singing. So I’m here to warn you…unless crosses line every wall in your house, I’ve got ten to one odds that you’ll find it as difficult to watch as I did. I won’t lie—I found this unbearable.

It’s long and slow and the laughs just don’t have enough punch. The “Lord Jesus, Deliver me!” singing and mourner’s bench-style facial close-ups are too much for most of us to handle—don’t believe me because I’m a whitey, but because I hereby challenge all black Pentecostal females from Louisiana to tell me differently. Even they might take issue with it.

The core elements of the story – the abuse, the refusal to love or to trust, and the unwillingness to change – are thrown on the table before us as though to say: “You wanted it! Eat up!” The title of the film, that says it all. Reflect on it for just a moment—I can do bad all by myself. And don’t we? When we do, whose fault is it? Everyone’s life is shit – some more than others – and so we can’t blame anyone else but ourselves for not coming through the trials of our circumstances.

Noble? For sure it is. Necessary? Not unless you grew up with an abusive parent who dunked your head in a bucket of Pine Sol and you need a little more God-anointed “pep” in your weekly dose of counseling. General audiences stay away. I’m going to stay away because I have enough drama in my life.



Grade: C- (2 stars)
Rated: PG-13
Director: Tyler Perry
Summary: Madea encounters three young children who come from a bad home and are pushed into a life of crime.
Starring: Tyler Perry “Madea / Joe,” Taraji P. Henson “April,” Adam Rodriguez “Sandino,” Brian J. White “Randy,” Hope Olaide Wilson “Jennifer,” Kwesi Boakye “Manny,” Frederick Siglar “Byron,” Gladys Knight “Wilma,” Mary J. Blige “Tanya,” Marvin Winans “Pastor Brian”
Genre: Comedy / Drama