With its retro credit sequence, Why Did I Get Married? proudly flaunts its maker’s right to make movies as badly as Bart Freundlich, Peyton Reed, and Woody Allen. Tyler Perry co-opts a distinctly “white” mode of cinematic storytelling—an equal-opportunity coup, perhaps, but a nightmare for film culture. (Perry condescends to whites and gays in the same way bad indie movies trivialize black life, getting off on a trite, adolescent sense of payback.) Essentially a black man’s version of Trust the Man, Why Did I Get Married? opens a window on the insular lives of four couples who travel to a lodge in Colorado to ostensibly fix their marriages: psychologist and bestselling author Patricia (Janet Jackson), the architect of these yearly trips, and her husband Gavin (Malik Yoba) dance around the death of their son; Terry (Tyler Perry) struggles to lure Dianne (Sharon Leal) away from her BlackBerry and into his pants; Marcus (Michael Jai White) tries to hide his VD from the explosive, perpetually drinking Angela (Tasha Smith); and the voluptuous Sheila (a fat-suited Jill Scott) endures an unbelievable litany of abuse from Mike (Richard T. Jones), who tells her, “You look like the cow that jumped over the moon,” after she enters their bedroom in a new nightgown.
Perry, who tellingly casts himself as one of only two characters in the story with a faultless sense of moral conscious, subjects audiences to shrill hysterics of the highest order, all set to a score eerily familiar from countless Walt Disney and Cuba Gooding Jr. movies. It takes a while for Perry’s dialogue to blow its shockingly expository load (“You are still the same pain in the butt when we were roommates”), but when it does it’s only to adopt a reproofing tenor, with advice doled out as sound bites (“Sometimes signing the paper is all the fighting you need to do,” says Angela to a newly-divorced Sheila) and much ego-boosting lip service paid to spiritual crisis (it’s like watching the Grammys!). In one particularly bad scene, Sheila goes and tells it on the mountain, a hunky fallback guy by her side; it’s a bad-sitcom moment writ large, and a reminder of how far removed Perry’s movies are from the art of James Baldwin and Jill Scott’s music.