Starting in 2006 and running all of the way until The Single Moms Club came out in 2014, Tyler Perry had not had a movie open up to less than $10 million in the opening weekend. That's fourteen consecutive movies that that broke the double digit millions barrier, which is a hell of an accomplishment. During that time, his lowest grossing film was Daddy's Little Girls, which made $31 million. Nine of the movies made over $50 million domestically. He was a 'can't miss' talent in an industry that was seeing name value have less and less sway in success.
And then The Single Mom's Club came along, making $8 million and finishing at $15.9 million domestically. It is his only film ever to do so poorly, the only financial blemish on his career. What ended up happening to cause this? It could be that it was because his popular Madea character was not in it, but he had other films succeed without her. It's not because of the critical reception, as his films generally aren't that well accepted by the keyboard warrior defenders of cinema interpretation. To be honest, I'm not sure what caused it's dismal perforce. I can say, however, that I would not have been one to pay money for it.
I should be honest right from the beginning and state that I thought the casting in this movie was very much its strong suit. Nia Long had the abilities to portray May, a strong mother and ambitious writer. Wendy McLendon-Covey was able to be a stuck-up white woman who couldn't break from battling for a rung on the corporate ladder. Sadly, I found her funniest material in the out takes during the end credits. Playing Hilary was Amy Smart, a newly separated woman who was out of her league dealing with a child and an infant. Zulay Henao was Esperanza, a woman caught between her controlling ex-husband and a sexy boyfriend that she couldn't fully commit to. Cocoa Brown brought probably the best performance as Lytia, a woman with a tough life who doesn't want to see her son turn into a criminal like his brothers did. You also have a decent performance from Tyler Perry as TK. He is able to do a great job playing a calm and playfully flirtatious TK. Throw in Terry Crews, who I think is almost always a lot of fun, and you have a well rounded cast.
But this brings us to the biggest problem of the film. While the casting is quite good, the characters that are written do not develop very far, and they can be incredibly one dimensional. They play as stereotypes and caricatures. It is difficult to relate to them or feel bad. Hilary is having a really tough time because she can no longer afford the hired help that did all of the mothering work, leaving her to take care of two kids, in an enormous house, while still not having to worry about working. I feel bad for her. Such a tough life. You also have Esperanza who won't commit to her boyfriend because she is worried her ex-husband won't give her as much money. This wouldn't leave her broke. It would, however, mean that she couldn't live the lavish lifestyle that she was used to. Another character that my heart weeps for. I have no idea how these people, with no financial responsibilities, living in immaculate accommodations get out of bed every day.
We have a hard time connecting with these characters. They don't represent the audience for the most part. The only person who we do see as being realistic with actual problems is Lytia. The rest of them are fake with first world problems. It is hard to feel sorry for someone who still is living a storey book life. It reminded me of The Vow, in which you had a 'financially struggling' couple who was somehow living in the nicest, trendiest accommodations you could find.
As the story moves along, we see these women, who are kind of rude to each other at first, instantly bond within a matter of one page of script. Where the heck did this come from? It happens so quickly and without any realism. That's how most of the movie works. It is unnatural and jolts along. It takes these unsympathetic characters who are no grounded in the real world and pushes them along in ways that are forced and not as funny as the movie would have us believe.
It really is a shame. I think there was some really solid acting talent that was brought in for this. It could have been an extremely funny movie with distinct, rich characters. But the script made sure that would not happen. It took any potential the film had and pushed it down, taking any and all energy with it. The sad thing is that with this movie, we gain an understanding of what could have worked, and are left wondering why we did not get that.
Rating - 2 out of 4 stars