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.
Based on the popular Emmy-winning Saturday morning cartoon show Teacher's Pet revolves around a dog Spot Helperman (voiced by Nathan Lane) who for as long as he can remember always wanted to be a human boy--so much so that he puts on pants tucks his ears underneath a beanie cap and disguises himself as Scott Leadready II a "kid" who goes to his friend's er master's fourth grade class. Spot's master Leonard (voiced by Shaun Fleming) on the other hand just wishes he had a real dog to play with to catch sticks and lick his face. Fat chance with this pooch. Desperate for any chance to be human Spot discovers there's an experimental scientist in Florida Dr. Ivan Krank (voiced by Kelsey Grammer) who although labeled a complete wacko claims he can change animals into humans. Spot sets out to find Krank and make his dreams come true hitching a ride with Leonard and his schoolteacher mother (voiced by Debra Jo Rupp) on their way to the Sunshine State for a national teacher's contest. Several tiresome musical numbers later Leonard tries unsuccessfully to convince Spot to stay a dog and they find the diabolical doctor in the Florida swamps. Zap! Spot/Scott finally gets his wish. Be careful what you wish for little doggie.
It's a good thing Teacher's Pet incorporates some veteran voiceover talents to lend at least a little credibility to the silliness. Lane as the determined canine and Grammer as the evil scientist are animation pros--Lane from his Lion King days and Grammer from his hysterical stints on The Simpsons. They do their darnedest to bring out the best in the borderline corny dialogue from Pet's husband-and-wife writing team Bill and Cheri Steinkellner with lines like Spot's query "What's with this family and singing? I'm feeling Von-Trapped." But Lane and Grammer are consummate showmen delivering the lines and handling the singing chores with aplomb especially Grammer (get this man a Broadway show pronto). Other Pet denizens include Jerry Stiller as the Helperman's perpetually annoyed parrot Pretty Boy and David Ogden Stiers as the agoraphobic but cuddly cat Mr. Jolly. And if you listen closely you'll also hear Paul Reubens (aka Pee-wee Herman) and Will & Grace's Megan Mullally voicing two of Krank's experiments--with alligators and mosquitos respectively--gone strangely awry.
Despite a weak story and uninspiring songs Teacher's Pet has a unique animated style and that's its one key selling point. Renowned illustrator Gary Baseman whose art is frequently featured in top magazines such as The New Yorker and Rolling Stone got the idea for Pet when he wondered what his dog did all day long when he wasn't there. He teamed up with the Steinkellners (TV's Cheers) and created the TV version of Teacher's Pet which debuted in 2000 and has won several awards including a Daytime Emmy for best animated TV series. In the movie version first-time director Timothy Bjorklund sticks with Baseman's eclectic and off-kilter style and churns out the artist's illustrations at a fur-flying rate. There's lots to see and several inside jokes to catch including poking fun at Disney classics such as Pinocchio (the Blue Fairy done Baseman style is hilarious) and 101 Dalmatians (ditto with the "Twilight Bark"). It's been a long time since hand-drawn art has given audiences something just as distinctive as its rival the somewhat more versatile computer-generated animation.