Brenda (Angela Bassett) is a single mom living in the big city; thus it goes without saying that she is struggling mightily to make ends meet for herself and her three kids--Michael (Lance Gross) Tosha (Chloe Bailey) and Lena (Mariana Tolbert)--each of whom has a different father. Brenda’s problems come to a head when she goes in to work only to learn that her office has been shut down and moved to Mexico. Now it’s not so much her young daughter’s daycare that she can’t afford; it’s electricity and food! With literally nothing else to lose Brenda takes the advice of her friend (Sofia Vergara) and heads down to rural Georgia where Brenda just found out her estranged father is going to be buried. It is there that she also learns about her long-lost gigantic family and her father’s clandestine life. Most importantly though she meets a very persistent charmer (Rick Fox) who may or may not change her life in more than one way. Academy Award nominee Angela Bassett takes a huge step down in giving in to the hit machine that is Tyler Perry. Her bad decision to take on the role of an emotionally and financially battered single mom turns into an equally subpar performance. She is overly made-up both character-wise and physically--Brenda appears better-suited for one of Perry’s stage productions--and Bassett greatly overacts albeit somewhat appropriately for such a melodramatic film. Former Los Angeles Laker/Mr. Vanessa Williams Rick Fox playing a somewhat fictional version of his own life (i.e. retired basketball star) continues to attempt in vain to prove himself as an actor and not just a jock. Unfortunately he again comes off as an athlete trying his hand at acting with an emotional range and vocal monotone that make Shaquille O'Neal seem worthy of another acting gig. The lone bright spot is House of Payne (Perry’s TBS sitcom) star Gross who as a high school basketball star/super-son is thankfully unwilling to indulge in the overacting that surrounds him. In supporting roles the countless Brown family members are good for a few laughs but little else. And Perry himself pops up as the beloved Madea character for what can only be considered a cameo. As sure as a new spoof from the Scary Movie guys an under-the-radar Woody Allen film and a Saw flick Tyler Perry will put out at least one film a year these days. Between his own movie productions acting gigs on the side and hit TBS sitcom House of Payne Perry is clearly the busiest man in showbiz--gotta give him that. What’s not so clear however is how he has such a loyal fervent fan base. Meet the Browns like every other movie he’s written and/or directed (five of them) is very occasionally silly-funny or touching but otherwise verges on absurd and not the good There Will Be Blood kind of absurd. It’s everything that probably makes Perry’s plays--which are the basis for almost all of his work and his subsequent meteoric Hollywood rise--successful: histrionics theatrics melodrama and preaching. None of those elements translates to anything more than an uneven film yet apparently throngs of moviegoers couldn’t disagree more--and hey at least it’s a (welcome) change from almost everything else at the local multiplex.
There are distinct echoes of Alan Alda’s The Four Seasons and Lawrence Kasdan’s The Big Chill here as the film focuses on four couples who have been friends since their college days. Periodically they get together and ask themselves the title question as they re-examine their relationships. There’s Janet Jackson as Patricia the college lecturer whose best-selling book is based on her friends’ relationships. Patricia and her husband Gavin (Malik Yoba) are trying to hold their marriage together after the loss of their young son in a tragic car accident. The cocky Mike (Richard T. Jones) flaunts an adulterous relationship in front of his insecure overweight wife Shelia (Jill Scott) who is completely oblivious to the deception. Terry (Perry himself) is a successful pediatrician trying to convince his wife Diane (Sharon Leal)--a successful attorney in her own right--to have more kids. Marcus (Michael Jai White) a former pro football player merely tries to get through the day without a tongue-lashing from his acerbic wife Angela (Tasha Smith) a woman not known for keeping her opinions to herself regardless of how appropriate the circumstances. All of them find themselves confronting career demands family demands infidelity incompatibility and mistrust--all while drinking far too much wine. Needless to say before their get-together is over a number of secrets will be divulged and each couple will find their relationships shaken to their respective cores. Forgoing the housedress of his cinematic alter-ego “Madea ” Perry proves an affable screen personality quite relaxed within the ensemble. Jones doesn’t go out of his way to make Mike in any way likable which makes his one of the more memorable and clearly defined characters in the entire cast. Although Smith gets all the sassy lines White easily steals their scenes together with a surprisingly appealing comic turn. Hunky Lamman Rucker plays a dreamboat sheriff who finds himself drawn into this ever-shifting circle of friends. The women have a tougher go of it with Jackson giving a tremulous performance that makes her character almost disappear into the background. Yoba is also low-key although more affectingly so as her onscreen spouse. Leal does what she can with the stock role of a career woman who takes her home life for granted but she fares better than Scott whose crying scenes--and there are more than one--ground the story to a halt. All told however the ensemble cast has an easy and relaxed chemistry together which keeps the film--as soapy as uneven as it often is--afloat throughout. Tyler Perry doesn’t open up his stage play to any major degree preferring to leave the emphasis on characters and dialogue--both of which incidentally he has created. Perry tends to approach these intricate topics with broad (but not irrelevant) strokes but he’s not about to tamper with a successful formula. Like most of Perry’s previous films (Diary of a Mad Black Woman Madea*s Family Reunion et. al.) Why Did I Get Married? runs on a bit and overstates its case but its heart’s in the right place.