I keep seeing words like “excruciating” and “terrible” used in connection with Tyler Perry’s The Single Moms Club — a movie that marks my 16th excursion into Mr. Perry’s oeuvre. I am left to wonder whether or not my full-immersion baptism into the curious realm of Tyler Perry hasn’t degraded my critical faculties, since I found this new one neither excruciating, nor terrible. This is not to say that I thought it was particularly good. It just didn’t strike me as that bad. It’s like a moderately high-end TV movie, which is actually something of an accomplishment when you compare it to Perry’s early works. I will never watch it again. I will never own it. But if it was on TV, I wouldn’t make a dive for the remote to get it off — and I certainly didn’t mind sitting through it once.
It probably helped that I saw it with an audience that clearly loved every minute of its too-tidy plotting and laughed at its every, often-feeble joke. Sure, I recognize the movie’s limitations. Its insistence that all its theoretically strong female characters should end up in the arms of some hunky guy — except for Nia Long who ends up with Tyler Perry — is regressive. Everyone’s problems are too easily solved (often having been overstated in the first place). It is a moralizing fantasy — albeit a wholly secular one for a change. (No one has to get right with the Lord this time. None of the characters even talk about going to church or their faith.) This is unusual in a Tyler Perry movie.
Apart from the film’s secular tone, more than usual restraint in melodrama and perhaps the most racially diverse cast of Perry’s career, The Single Moms Club is standard Tyler Perry. Its major characters — those who make up the club of the title — are thrust into contact against their wills. Their encounter comes about because the women’s children are all about to be bounced from their posh private school over graffiti and smoking. (The economic diversity is explained by the school policy.) The only way to prevent them from being kicked out is to put the kids on probation and (somewhat preposterously) have their mothers take charge of decorating and creating a school dance. Naturally, the women mostly dislike each other. Just as naturally, they will come to bond over their similarities. Along the way, they’ll bond with their children, adjust their priorities and find (or come to appreciate) the right guys.
That’s all there is to it. Yes, it’s predictable. Yes, it’s never more than adequate as filmmaking. If you’re not the target audience, it’s probably not going to do a blessed thing for you. If you are the target audience, you probably don’t bother worrying about what critics have to say about the latest Tyler Perry opus. (This will not prevent someone from complaining that I don’t love Perry enough. It’s the way of things.) Rated PG-13 for some sexual material and thematic elements.
Playing at Carmike 10.