I Can Do Bad All By Myself
In Tyler Perry’s latest, Taraji P. Henson is April, who spends her days sleeping and her nights singing to a packed nightclub. April has a relationship going with a married man, a bit of a drinking problem and a tendency to think of no one other than herself.
So it is a bit of an upheaval when one morning she wakes to find three children and Madea (Perry) on her doorstep. The children are April’s niece and nephews, who are otherwise cared for by their grandmother who they haven’t seen in days.
And they're not the only new residents for April. Soon after, the local church sends a handyman, Sandino (Adam Rodriguez) to do work at the house in exchange for room and board.
‘Bad’ is a movie made in true Perry form. There are the musical heavyweights: Mary J. Blige as the club’s owner, Tanya and the refreshing sight of often-unseen Gladys Knight as the soft-spoken but strong in song Miss Wilma. Perry also enlisted the Pastor Marvin Winans and Ne-Yo to contribute to the music for the film. And it pushes the drama of April’s story, as she struggles to find the person she was, which she lost long before an early morning knock at the door upset her self-indulgent life.
It is Good vs. 'Bad', and the presence of the darker side of April's world is evident, with her indifference to her young relatives, her shady boyfriend Randy (Brian J. White) and the difficult past the children have already had to live through. It’s a trademark of Perry films that every character must endure some type of struggle. And ‘Bad’ is no different.
Good is played with the possibility of redemption in the well-intentioned presence of religion, a church at the end of April’s street led by Pastor Brian (Winans) and the generosity that is shown to April and the children by Sandino almost the moment he moves into the house.
The story’s drama is not overbearing, but it has its heavier moments, balanced by that Madea brand humor that fans of Perry’s films have come to expect.
In ‘Bad,’ even with names such as Blige and Knight, it is ultimately Henson who has to carry this film – and for the film that it is, she does so beautifully. None of the actors in ‘Bad’ really have to stretch far for their roles – but they still pull it all off the Perry most likely intended. But Henson doesn't overdo her role, keeping her performance tailored and well executed.
Each aspect of the recipe for a standard Perry film, in this one is measured just right. When the audience first meets April, she is clad in black with a nostalgic wig, belting out a version of Aretha Franklin’s “Rock Steady”. When the audience gets their first glimpse of Madea, she’s threatening to put the fear of god into the children, who have broken into her home. Blige brings the energy that can be found during her live performances to the nightclub’s stage. And most of all, throughout the film there is the hope for an end to the troubles that plague April’s family. And hope is what Tyler Perry movies are all about.