For the prolific Tyler Perry, Why Did I Get Married Too? is nothing if not more of the same. Continuing the couples therapy session of the preceding Why Did I Get Married? (a film adapted from the successful stage play of the same name), this dramatically heavy sequel stands as perhaps the most encompassing example to date of the writer-director’s strengths and weaknesses, which together represent less in the way of outright mediocrity than a deliberately unchallenging, mass-appeal oriented style. Even when the iconic Madea is absent (as she is here), Perry’s films can be likened to feature-length sitcoms free of a distinctive aesthetic, narratively predictable and fated to easy resolutions.
Which is not to say that his storytelling skills aren’t expert in their execution, if occasionally irresponsible in their creative choices. Nevertheless, and with rare exceptions, Why Did I Get Married Too? suggests a creator overly comfortable with his craft and willing to coast by on his former successes. That Perry retains his knack for the occasionally beauteous, quotidian image (an elderly couple framed against the night sky, their being ever so slightly out of focus suggesting an angelic presence) suggests less in the way of creative choices than mere happy accidents.
Perry’s wide-appeal aim is most apparent in the archetypal characters and their respectively familiar relationships, here a group designed to go off at intervals like a ticking bomb: the super-controlling Angela (Tasha Smith) and her hotshot husband Marcus (Michael Jai White); the career-woman, Patricia (Janet Jackson), whose professional exterior masks a widening schism in her marriage with the introverted Gavin (Malik Yoba); the apparently peachy Dianne (Sharon Leal) and Terry (Perry), whose mutually comfortable resolve hides growing strains; the recently married Sheila (Jill Scott) and Troy (Lamman Rucker), whose recent familial relocation finds the couple in dire financial straights. Enter Sheila’s abusive former spouse, Mike (Richard T. Jones), to jumpstart the drama and whose intentions are more than meets the eye. Like the women of Sex and the City, these characters serve as surrogate identifiers for the audience, ensuring that all bases are covered and no personality type goes unsatisfied—at least, in theory.
As tensions flair between husbands, wives, and exes during the gang’s annual getaway vacation, Perry remains intent on ferreting out the good among the bad, and it is in these moments of light comedic rapport, particularly during a male bonding session on the beach, that Why Did I Get Married Too? most substantially explores the give and take nature of modern marital demands. Alas, the script is inconsistent at best, the developing plot threads ultimately giving way to contrivance, while the running gag that is the loudmouthed, jealousy-prone Angela is one that is at best misguided, at worst offensive: Read her as a caricature and her story of relationship strife becomes a callous punchline to real-world strains; read her as flesh-and-blood and her domineering, pistol-waving antics become reductive and clichéd. This stands in stark contrast to the tangible hurt experienced by Jackson’s Patricia, whose tightly framed confrontation with her drunk husband might be the best-acted scene in Perry’s catalogue.
All in all, a strangely mixed bag even by Perry’s often uneven comedy/drama standards, which is to say nothing of a literally last-minute cameo that stands a chance at maintaining status as the WTF moment of the year. Only time—and, purportedly, a third film—will tell if this move is one of audacity or outright stupidity.