Why Did I Get Married?

Movie Information

The Story: Four couples -- friends from college days -- go on a mountain getaway where the various problems with their marriages show through. The Lowdown: Yet another mediocre cinematic sermon from Tyler Perry. His fans will love it; everyone else should be very wary.
Score:

Genre: Marital Drama
Director: Tyler Perry
Starring: Tyler Perry, Sharon Leal, Janet Jackson, Malik Yoba, Jill Scott, Richard T. Jones
Rated: PG-13

The real question for me about Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married? came about 30 minutes into the film: “Why am I watching this movie?” The question, of course, was rhetorical. I’d already tried to weasel my way out of seeing it, but my reviewing compadre, Justin Souther (who nonetheless sat through most of the film with me), pointed out that I had seen all of Perry’s theatrical ventures and was therefore the better choice since I was more familiar with Perry’s oeuvre. (I must reward him for his logic and perception at some future point.)

The fact remains that, yes, I’ve seen Diary of a Mad Black Woman (2005), Madea’s Family Reunion (2006) and Daddy’s Little Girls (2007). While it should be noted that Perry hired a director for his first films—Darren Grant (who promptly went back to obscurity as soon as Perry decided to do it all himself)—there’s never been any question as to who wears the pants—and occasionally, the frocks. Perry is without question an auteur—a fact that should settle for all time the misconception that auteur is a term signifying quality. Perry’s movies offer conclusive testimony that being an auteur simply indicates the presence of a single unifying vision at work. It doesn’t mean you’re in the presence of a great filmmaker. After all, Ed Wood was an auteur, too.

It isn’t that Perry hasn’t learned anything over the past few years. He has. He’s learned that his movies are critic-proof, and so he doesn’t bother with improving either his mastery of filmmaking or upping his production values. This newest opus looks just as cheap and amateurish as the first one. The script is the usual assortment of clichés and tidy sermonizing. Apparently, Perry’s fans don’t care that no one talks like the characters in these films—just as long as it’s all seasoned with a lot of references to God and “living right.”

He’s also learned—in the wake of the unexciting box-office performance of Daddy’s Little Girls—that his films fare better if he appears in them. The question remains if he’s about to learn that they fare better still if he appears in them dressed in drag as the outspoken Madea character. I’m not sure that two references to Madea’s cure for a bad husband—a pot of bubbling grits in the face—will satisfy his core audience’s desire for the full Madea experience.

In Why Did I Get Married? Perry has given himself the lead role as Terry, the long-suffering, incredibly patient doctor married to a workaholic wife, Diane (Sharon Leal, Dreamgirls). Terry—for reasons having more to do with plot than good sense—has masterminded a romantic retreat in snowy Colorado where not only he and his spouse, but three other couples as well stay in a little cabin straight out of a General Foods’ International Coffees commercial. Being a Tyler Perry film, this is merely a setup for a lot of talk, talk and more talk—in this case, centering on the nature of marriage at its most melodramatic. I lost track of the infidelities, presumed infidelities and general catalog of marital strife that he’s managed to pack into this one movie, but the only thing that seemed to be lacking was for one of the characters to turn out to be gay. (That wasn’t likely in Perry’s very traditional Christian-centric worldview, of course, as made evident by the offensively caricatured gay couple in an early scene.)

Only part of the movie takes place in the snowbound setting, but that simply means that the endless talk and facile lecturing gets spread out over a variety of locations. And nothing changes the fact that Perry’s film is undiluted Lifetime TV soap plastered large across the big screen. Platitudes, homilies and bromides abound—all feeling like they were cribbed off bumper stickers. The depths of shallowness, however, are plumbed when the psychologist of the group, Patricia (Janet Jackson, sans “wardrobe malfunction,” if you were wondering), opts to salvage two of the marriages by having the women make lists of their husbands’ good and bad attributes and tally them up! (Strangely, the men are in need of no such lists—and, in fact, make it clear that they’re only teaching their wives a lesson by walking out on them while fully intending to return, not questioning whether or not their wives want them to return.)

The single bright spot in the film is Jill Scott in the role of the overweight and much-abused Sheila. She makes her character touching and likable—no small accomplishment given the fact that she has to pretend not to see that her pig of a husband (Richard T. Jones) is a prime specimen of a human bacterium. Scott’s not enough to make the film worth seeing, but if you have to see it, she’s the one to focus on. Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, sexual references and language.

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

36 thoughts on “Why Did I Get Married?

  1. jaz

    “Perry’s fans don’t care that no one talks like the characters in these films.”

    Are you kidding? I know lots of people who “talks like the characters in these films.” Perhaps that is part of Perry’s appeal? His target audience can relate all too well to his characters.

  2. John

    The only thing lacking in this review is your mind. One of the characters is not Gay. If you were to listen a little bit further you would have found out that his wife cheated on him with another guy and gave him VD.

  3. Ken Hanke

    If you were to read a little more carefully, you’d realize I didn’t say one of the characters was gay. I said — “the only thing that seemed to be lacking was for one of the characters to turn out to be gay. (That wasn’t likely in Perry’s very traditional Christian-centric worldview, of course, as made evident by the offensively caricatured gay couple in an early scene.)” My whole point was that it was the one element that didn’t show up in Perry’s cornucopia of marriage ills.

  4. pat

    Correction-Terry was not the mastermind of the retreat, Patricia was. If you don’t enjoy this genre of movie, why did you go to see it?

  5. Ken Hanke

    I went to see it because it’s part of my job. I don’t only go to see things because I want to — no critic does. It wouldn’t be possible and it wouldn’t be a practice that would result in very good criticism either. But I would be interested to know what genre of movie this is anyway? It isn’t as though I don’t like dramas or comedies, and presumably it’s in one of those categories. I don’t think my dislike of the film is grounded in its genre, but in the fact that I think it’s a bad movie, something I could not have known without going to see it.

  6. Shola Akinnuso

    The thing I don’t get is why critics point out that people don’t talk like this. There are PLENTY of Black people that talk this way, and I’m certainly one of them along with all of my buddies. In fact, a friend that isn’t a traditional ‘Tyler Fan’ was floored by the dialogue of the movie when I treated him to the flick on my second viewing.

    I don’t think it’s an overtly ‘racist’ thing, but it’s certainly bothersome when critics are so used to hearing over-the-top blaxsploitation-toned dialogue from the mouths of hollywood writers that when we’re presented with an fair approximation of ‘real’ black middle-classed dialogue, it’s rejected as being fake.

    While Tyler isn’t the most brilliant writer, he
    has definitely captured the dynamics (and tribulations)of my family and the families of those that I grew up with. We’re not all ‘Boyz-n-da-hood’ cliches.

    I’m just glad that he’s making movies that inspire something like hope.

  7. Ken Hanke

    I find it interesting that you immediately assume that my reason for saying “people don’t talk like this” is grounded in the lack of the cliche of stereotypical dialect. (Though it might be noted that the film you chose to cite was in fact written and directed by a black man.) You see, the point has nothing to do with a lack of black dialect. In fact, every time Perry has one of his characters attempt to pepper the dialogue with something in that vein, I cringe because it sounds like a put-on. No, when I say that people don’t talk like this, I’m refering to the non-stop parade of bromides and homilies and supposed words of wisdom in terms that reduce the meaning of any and everything to a point where it would fit on a bumper-sticker. I have no problem at all with the characters being well-spoken (assuming that I do is itself a little telling). I object to the forced, ham-fistedness of what they’re called on to say — not how they say it.

  8. Angel

    Was it really that necessary to make mention of Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction”? This is 2007, I find it odd that critics are still reaching after an incident from 2004.

    I know you just added it in as a snarky ‘by the way’ or ‘if you’re wondering’, but it really has no place in a review about a film [where the actress/singer happens to be playing in]. Justin Timberlake was in Alpha Dog and Black Snake Moan, and I never did once hear any Superbowl Halftime show implications, even though he was the one who actually coined the phrase. Whatever.

  9. Ken Hanke

    Was it necessary? No, of course not, but for a lot of us the silliness of that whole affair is what immediately springs to mind these days when Jackson’s mentioned. (It has less to do with Jackson than it has to do with America’s incredible prudishness as concerns why it’s remembered.) Still, what’s the fuss really? Is that your only issue with the review? That seems as much an aside as the comment itself.

  10. Andi

    I am black and Tyler Perry’s movies are lacking just as this and many other critics say. For once, can we take a moment to broaden our horizons. Of course, if the only movies you see are black, then TP’s movies are good. But if you for one minute try to open your minds and explore the possibility that there are other good movies besides those made by, for and starring blacks, You might see that while TP should be commended for his effort, he is, by no standards, a great filmaker.

  11. Ken Hanke

    Thank you, that’s at least partly my point. However, you can see far better movies than Perry’s without leaving the realm of black film. Last year there was Bryan Barber’s IDLEWILD — a black filmmaker dealing with a black subject and a black cast. It was a brilliant movie, boldly executed. It made my 10 Best list for 2006. Kasi Lemmons’ TALK TO ME will almost certainly be on my 2007 10 Best list. Lemmons is not only a black filmmaker, but a black woman filmmaker, and this biography Washington DC radio personality “Petey” Greene (Don Cheadle) is electrifying. Both Don Cheadle and co-star Chiwetel Ejiofor have been mentioned as potential Oscar nominees for this movie. Barber and Lemmons are so far ahead of Perry as filmmakers that it’s criminal that they’re much less known.

  12. Steven

    I am an avid fan of movies, all of them. I believe Tyler Perry did a very good job as actor, writer and director, truly his best work. I laughed, I cried, I felt the characters and I left, loving the characters. I have never had more fun at the movies before. I even experienced learning an important lesson or two, not to mention thinking about some of the dialogue and questioning my own relationships. Yes, there are cliches and yes their is room for improvent, but I can say that about many movies, including those that win awards. By the way, idlewood was a horrible movie it doesn’t compare. If I had ten dollars to spend, I know which movie I would attend. This movie, had me engrossed from the beginning to the end. A rare feat in movies today. Maybe you have to be black to “get” this movie. Maybe not, if you went with an open mind to be entertained.

  13. Ken Hanke

    Really? You’ve never had more fun at the movies than you did with this? I find that remarkable.

  14. vjack

    so mr hanke, while on rotten tomato i read and saw all the reviews for this movie and you seem to be the only so called critic that did not care for this movie. why is that? and who said mr perry was a great movie writer and director. show me a great writer/director and i’ll show you his critic.. try to enjoy a movie for what it is, just that, a movie not a life changing experience..

  15. Ken Hanke

    Why, Mr. vjack, you either have a very special version of Rotten Tomatoes, or else your powers of perception are different from mine. The movie has a “48% approval rating,” it has 16 good reviews (or at least not wholly negative ones) and 17 bad reviews. The Rotten Tomatoes concensus is that it’s “too preachy and melodramatic.” The pages dealing with it have such break-out quotes as –

    “Why Did I Get Married? is Tyler Perry’s best screen effort to date, which is to say it’s comfortably mediocre instead of criminally intolerable.”

    “A simple, feeble-minded film with a high-school-level screenplay.”

    “In the end, it’s easy to answer the question: why don’t we care what happens one way or the other?”

    “There’s such an overriding sense of soap opera that I kept expecting a commercial break.”

    “in a strange way, this film can be therapeutic for the average person, the same way The Jerry Springer Show is”

    “Is it overboard to consider the Tyler Perry phenomenon a cult?”

    Not a one of those was written by me, so how exactly do you conclude that I am the only “so called critic that did not care for this movie”?

  16. vjack

    very well put mr MR HANKE YOUR RIGHT FOR A CHANGE, NOT BAD FOR A SO CALLED CRITIC.. YOU MUST NOT BE MARRIED MR HANKE? THATS WHY YOU CANT RELATE. DIDNT CHANGE MY LIFE BUT MADE ME REALIZE THAT THERE ARE NO PERFECT MARRIGES.. YA! IT WAS NOT AND EPIC ADVENTURE NOR A TECHINAL MASTER PIECE AND A BIT JUVENILE I MUST ADMIT, BUT IT WAS WHAT A LOT OF OTHER MOVIES ARE NOT, THOUGHT PROVOKING AND THAT GOES A LONG WAY IN MY BOOK

  17. Ken Hanke

    Actually, I am married, so that’s a bit of assumption that doesn’t work. Maybe that’s a part of why I can’t relate to it. I went in knowing full well that there’s no such thing as a perfect marriage. As a result, it wasn’t exactly revelatory. And you must not know my tastes very well if you think my dislike of the film is grounded in it not being an epic adventure. My problem is grounded in the fact that I don’t find the movie in the least thought-provoking, because it raises no new issues, poses no very satisfactory solutions, and reduces everything to an incredibly simplistic level. There’s also a slight whiff of the misogynistic about the movie in that the men in the film tend to be right and the women the ones who are at fault. The story thread about Jill Scott is the exception to this, of course, but that is painted in such broad strokes of melodrama that it loses all credibility — and this in spite of Scott’s terrific performance. (I’m not even going to get into Perry’s disturbing depiction of the gay couple on the train.) The truly odd thing in all this is that much of what I object to about Perry’s films is that I’ve not only come away from all of them with a sense of mixed messages — as in MADEA’S FAMILY REUNION where spousal abuse is bad, but no amount of whacking a child around is anything but admirable — but I feel that he’s short-changing and talking down to his target audience all the while.

  18. Victor

    I did not see this movie but after seeing the trailer, I did not give it further consideration for reasons outlined in Mr. Hanke’s review.

    The trailer alone made this movie come across as approaching marital strife through a series of back and forth one line self help slogans. My thought is that anyone who reads Deepak Chopra’s books (and that’s a whole lot of folks) would probably love this movie.

    Seems like a self help book made into a movie. Another genre that will probably explode in popularity as a result. It figures that a one dimensional personality like Janet Jackson would be used so heavily to promote this film.

  19. Tracy

    It is time that black people realize that we are still considered as second class citzen. Tyler Perry movie was an excellent movie that depicted African American people as successful blacks. Not gang banger or ghetto in which white people love to see. I just watched sex in the city and it was very trashy and ugly betty stupid,but because it is white people it is the best show alive. If tyler perry movie was all white it would have been the best show alive. I wish black people would just listen to your reviews and finally realize we need to bond together . Just like Waiting to Exhale was the orginal sex and the city. Do me a favor and stop knocking black movies that shows a positive light of black people.

  20. Ken Hanke

    I’m not knocking this film because it “shows a positive light of black people,” but because it’s an unrealistically plotted, ham-fisted soap opera made by a guy with a dull, flat cinematic style and no ear for dialogue. In fact, it seems to me that you’re asking for people to “bond together” and call this good just because it’s made by a black man. If that’s so, where’s the love for Bryan Barber’s IDLEWILD or Kasi Lemmon’s TALK TO ME? Moreover, saying that if this movie “was all white it would have been the best show alive” is simply preposterous. Black, white or hot pink, it’d still be mediocre. And if you think otherwise, try reading my review this Wednesday of DAN IN REAL LIFE.

  21. vjack

    you know what mr hanke ive finnally come to a conclusion that you are a very good critic and your point on this film made me finnally see it for what it really was.. bravo mr hanke…. im not worthy

  22. Ken Hanke

    I’m quite sure you are indeed worthy. I just don’t think this movie is.

  23. BEEBE

    Obviously, the average viewer of this movie is not paying your salary because your opinion is NOT even close to how the general public rated this movie.

    On Fandango.com over 99% of the viewers rated this movie as a “MUST GO” and gave it an A. Of course, you are entitled to your critical opinion and it is welcome and respected.

    Based on your comment that “no one talks like this” may be based on the limited settings that you have experienced in your life. In fact, many of those “words of wisdom” may be a “put on” to you, but let me assure you it IS very real and commonplace in many households that may be unfamiliar to “you”.

    Lets just say that you would definitely feel out of place and probably find it hard to handle and mingle an any of my family get-togethers because that which you feel is “not realistic” would become all too real. Trust me, “words of wisdom”, christian cliches (or hamfisted dialect, as you called it) is a way of life in my world that has been around for generations.

    GO AHEAD TYLER, I can relate all too-well to some of these characters. I guess you would have to have “been there, done that” to understand.

    Hanke – keep giving us your objective opinion. I’m always interested in hearing and respecting other peoples perspectives on things that may not agree with …or even be familiar with.

  24. Ken Hanke

    On the one hand, the trouserless gentleman raises a good point. After all, McDonald’s sells more food than any place on earth, yet it’s hardly what anyone would call a great restaurant. Or does the immense popularity of, say, TRANSFORMERS equate with great filmmaking? I’d say no. Moreover, it’s as well to note that those ranking the film on Fandango are going to be heavily skewed toward viewers predisposed to liking WHY DID I GET MARRIED?. The user score on Rotten Tomatoes — again this is going to be skewed because users, as opposed to critics, who go to this page are apt to be fans — is 68% or 20% higher than the critics’ rankings.

    On the other hand, I sincerely want to thank Beebe for a well-considered and thoughtful response to the review. I very much appreciate and respect that.

    The truly unfortunate thing in all this is that Perry has marginalized himself as far as critics are concerned. We’ll never know a full critical perspective on this film, nor on any of his other works, because of this. Consider, for example, that DAN IN REAL LIFE (a film I consider fully as bogus as Perry’s) has received 104 reviews, while Perry’s movie has garnered 33 reviews. There’s a huge imbalance there, because Perry refuses to let critics screen his films and because his work is so target specific that many reviewers simply don’t consider the films worth their time (or perhaps they don’t want the inevitable complaints from Perry’s admirers). The sad thing is that this results in a situation where even if Perry were to make a film that played well with critics neither they, nor the broader audience are likely to know it. The truth is that reviews — good or bad — are publicity.

    I’d also like to make it clear that I’m not trying to stop anyone from going to a Perry film. I’m not trying to get anyone to dislike him or his work. The original print review clearly stated that Perry’s fanbase will almost certainly like the film, but that its appeal beyond that is another matter. I think that’s pretty honest. Similarly, I think it would be dishonest to say that I was involved with the characters when I wasn’t (Jill Scott to one side, because I loved her) or that I found it well written or directed when I didn’t. For that matter, I think it would be equally wrong not to point out that I found the tone slightly misogynistic and the gay caricature homophobic.

  25. alex200606

    Screw the critics people! They get paid to ‘try’ to piss people off. You made your opinions count where it matters most – Ticket sales. Everyone has an opinion and not everyone will agree with another. Decide for yourselves…Don’t be to sensitive to what others write (the internet will drive you crazy if you do)

  26. Ken Hanke

    “They get paid to ‘try’ to piss people off.”

    Do you honestly believe that? The vast majority of the movie critics I know are in it simply because they love movies. Now, they may not love the same movies you do, but you covered that with “Everyone has an opinion and not everyone will agree with another,” didn’t you?

  27. Clocky

    Ken Hanke, I have really enjoyed reading this thread.

    You’ve got me really interested in seeing Idlewild, and the movie with Don Cheadle.

    I’ve seen very few movies lately by black filmmakers, and those two sound promising.

    What do you think of Hustle & Flow and Black Snake Moan? I really loved H&F;. BSM wasn’t nearly as good, but still makes avg. fare pale.

    (Before someone jumps on me: I know that Craig Brewer is white)

  28. Ken Hanke

    Well, both IDLEWILD and TALK TO ME (the Don Cheadle movie) are out on DVD. I will warn you that IDLEWILD is a HIGHLY stylized film (it’s a musical after all) and is not to everyone’s tastes. You might want to check out the full reviews on each before undertaking them –

    http://www.mountainx.com/movies/review/idlewild.php

    http://www.mountainx.com/movies/review/talk_to_me

    I liked both HUSTLE & FLOW and BLACK SNAKE MOAN with a slight edge toward BLACK SNAKE MOAN, which may be the result of being so very impressed at how well Brewer used the wide-screen process (do not watch this film in one of those “full frame” abominations!). I keep meaning to rewatch HUSTLE & FLOW to see if it made similar use of the frame, but there never seems time enough.

  29. raine

    I saw the movie and I did enjoy watching it. I see the validity of the points Mr. Hanke made. I am black though not from USA but the Caribbean. I found that some of the conflicts were resolved too easily considering the depth of the problems. Perhaps cutting down the number of couples to two and then focusing on the resolution of their problems would have helped. In the end I did find it ‘preachy and melodramatic’. But I enjoyed the film for what positive elements it had to offer. Some parts of it made me laugh and other parts made me think and then laugh. Jill Scott gave a very good performance…that must be said. Don’t make it a black/white thing. Its not a great movie but you can get a good laugh and that’s cool for me.

  30. Ken Hanke

    “Jill Scott gave a very good performance…that must be said.”

    Indeed, yes, and I have said that several times.

    “Don’t make it a black/white thing.”

    Thank you. That was never my intention, nor do I honestly believe that factors into my objections to the movie. You could reshoot this with an all-white cast and my reaction to it would be the same.

  31. This Tuesday a milestone in independent African American films is coming on dvd, KILLER OF SHEEP. Directed by Charles Burnett, it takes place in Watts in the 70s but is not Blaxploitation or gun packed, but a slice of life. I’ve read about it for years and am excited to finally get a chance to see it. For those wanting more from Black cinema this might be a must see.

    marc

  32. George

    I don’t understand the loyalty and fierce devotion within the Tyler Perry fanbase. I mean take some of this energy and protest the Sean Bell case, support black intellectuals like Cornell West and Michael Eric Dyson, cure a disease, but please, stop defending mediocrity. The man makes a living peddling these horribly contrived and dogmatic movies w/ generic soap opera plots and ridiculous dialogue and histrionics. I know few people who speak like the characters in these movies and those who do either need to get out more or have emotional issues. The characters are caricatures, hollow and they are often hideous stereotypes and this buffoonery has to come to an end. Why does a black man feel like he has to don a dress to make it in Hollywood? Why don’t we hold our artists to some sort of critical standard? These Tyler Perry movies are not quite as bad as “Soul Plane”. Is that the best we have to offer?
    I am a black man and grew up in black neighborhoods in Brooklyn and have lived in North Carolina. I haven’t any nefarious alterior motives and I doubt the reviewer of this movie had any when he gave a brutally honest summation of his viewing experience.

  33. Ken Hanke

    Is that the best we have to offer?

    No, it is not, which is — and has been — part of my complaint with these movies all along. I can understand why there is no similar rallying around IDLEWILD, which is definitely not a film for everyone (whatever that means), but look at Kasi Lemmons TALK TO ME. That’s a fairly straightforward film with powerful performances from Don Cheadle and Chiwetel Ejiofor, and it’s beautifully made by a black woman. It takes a hard look at a difficult period and does so with a degree of honesty. Where was the support for that film? Does a seriously intended (I’m presuming that things like SOUL PLANE and WHITE CHICKS are not seriously intended) black film have have to have a simplistic, heavy-handed dose of religion and broad comedy to succeed?

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