Confession: I liked Why Did I Get Married?. I saw it in a theater with family (as all Tyler Perry films should be viewed). Sadly, the theater wasn’t in Baltimore (my absolute favorite place to watch bad black films, because they’re always packed and interactive); it was in Grand Rapids, so the audience was sparse and there wasn’t as much gasping and yelling at the screen as I would’ve liked.
But even now, three years later, I still chuckle at how my jaw dropped, watching that dinner table scene where everyone’s secrets were revealed.
It was the first Tyler Perry movie that elicited a genuinely shocked and interested reaction—at least for a few minutes—rather than a smirk and an exaggerated eye-roll (like the Madea flicks and Daddy’s Little Girls). I actually scooted to the edge of my seat. I actually yelled aloud, “What the hell?” As embarrassing as this is to admit: that was kind of awesome.
Needless to say, I knew I’d see the sequel to Why Did I Get Married? as soon as I spotted the trailer with a bedraggled-looking Janet Jackson shattering all the glass in her living room. (“Perfect Patty messed up.” Heh.)
So there I was, yesterday morning, catching the four-dollar matinee in a near-empty theater. I wasn’t expecting much. One should never expect much from a Tyler Perry flick; that way, if you are surprised or entertained by anything, you feel you’ve gotten your money’s worth. (And three years later, you look back at his ability to get you to lean forward in surprise, when a wine bottle gets cracked over one of his characters’ heads and say, “That was kind of awesome.”)
From the first scene, I was treated to that trademark over-expositing Tyler Perry dialogue, though this time, it seemed even more grating, since this might be the first direct “sequel” he’s ever filmed. Though in a few of his other films, characters reappear, the WDIGM series is his first to have all nine principal actors from the first installment present in a second, reprising their roles and picking up their storylines a few years after they left off. As a result, there are a ton of scenes where actors are awkwardly shoehorning in statements like, “You remember what happened in Colorado…”
If you’ve seen the first WDIGM, you know that the films are split rather evenly into two parts: the marriage retreat and the post-retreat reality. In the first film, the retreat is cut short by the revelations of the aforementioned dinner table scene. This time out, the couples get to enjoy their vacation from start to finish, which means that the “shocker scenes” occur later in the film, after the couples have returned to the privacy of their homes.
In some ways, this is a little disappointing, as it’s always best when onscreen marital meltdowns are witnessed by the collective. But in other ways, these intimate arguments provide more nuance, as we’re let in on secrets the characters are obviously trying to hide from one another, as they lunch at fancy restaurants and band together to help a friend with an emotional breakdown (while secretly thanking their lucky stars their own lives haven’t spiraled quite this far out of control… yet). Plus, Perry manages to write his and Michael Jai White’s characters, Terry and Marcus, into a seriously crazed private scene between supposed marital gurus Patricia and Gavin (Jackson, Yoba)—and their reaction shots alone are worth the price of (my four-dollar) admission.
In the end, this film isn’t as fun as the first, its ending nowhere near as resolute or satisfying. In fact, a lot of the goodwill the first film engendered is undone by the end of the second. Tasha Smith’s loud-and-obnoxious act wears thin by the end of her first scene. Jill Scott’s Sheila and new husband, Troy (Lamman Rucker) have a cheesy, warmed over storyline ripped straight from the pages of the 1997 Soul Food script. And reformed abuser Mike (Richard T. Jones) falls victim to one of Perry’s most tiresome conventions: punishment for past sin, as manifested by diagnosis of terminal illness.
The most interesting couples, then, are Perry and Sharon Leal’s Terry and Dianne, who have improbably worked through all their serious issues from the first film… only to be faced with an infidelity, and Patricia and Gavin, who not only haven’t dealt with the death of their toddler, as they vowed to do in the first film, but have become so much more repressed in this film that they’re retreating into emotional, psychological, and physical abuse. (I could write an article unto itself on how disturbing Janet Jackson’s and Malik Yoba’s performances become by the end of this film*—and how pointless it was to direct these performances, since neither character seems to learn anything or seek help for his/her propensity for violence and degradation).
Unfortunately, neither of these interesting plots are fleshed out or resolved by the end of this movie. Instead, we get a really cheap final act and the rushed introduction of a new love interest (a relatively famous dude, completely new to the Tyler Perry universe) for one of the characters.
This introduction all but guarantees a third installment of this series, though as with many second films in a trilogy, this one dismantles the cool things about the first film in ways that a third film could never repair. The WDIGM series has an added challenge with the prospect of a third film; having unevenly tackled comedy and drama, this second film’s final act seemed to foray into something akin to horror… insomuch that, when the new guy swoops in to woo one of the women, you almost want to yell at him to run, don’t look back, and don’t go opening any skeleton-laden closets.
*Speaking of disturbing characteristics in this series, there’s an unnerving amount of violence in the lives of these “upper-middle-class” couples. From a husband choking his wife in the first film to Yoba’s creepy treatment of Jackson in this second, these people have no idea how to have acceptable, humane disagreements. And Perry’s message about marital violence remains rather unclear, as some of these incidents are played for laughs and others are supposed to be ignored, in order for us to root for these couples’ continued togetherness (… which is another fundamental problem with these films’ premise: it’s pretty clear that few of them know why they got married and even fewer of them should’ve in the first place.)
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