THE SINGLE MOMS CLUB
*1/2 (out of 5)
March 14, 2014
Nia Long as MAY
Amy Smart as HILLARY
Cocoa Brown as LYTIA
Wendi McLendon-Covey as JAN
Zulay Henao as ESPERANZA
Terry Crews as BRANSON
Directed by: Tyler Perry
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Tyler Perry gets a slight uptick in his filmmaking career with “The Single Moms Club.” That’s not to say this is a good movie by any means. It’s not. In fact, it’s downright terrible at times. However, it’s not nearly as awful as his two features that came out last year: “Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor” and “A Madea Christmas.”
At least Tyler Perry isn’t running around in his fat suit and dress in this one.
This film follows five diverse women who are raising their children alone for a variety of reasons. Some are rich and on the heel of divorce. Others are struggling to make ends meet and facing issues with the area in which they live. After all five of their children are involved in an incident at their private school, the moms are brought together to plan a school function. This unexpected partnership brings the group together to form a sort of informal support group for their families and themselves.
While technically a comedy, “The Single Moms Club” has plenty of moments of heavy drama, which is to be expected from a Tyler Perry movie. However, without Madea prancing around, the story doesn’t take the jarring dramatic shifts that I’ve become used to. There is a moment where things get pretty dark in the middle, but it’s still pretty tame for the normal character-punishing trials Perry’s stories entail.
This film also gives Perry a chance to stretch out a bit and try to connect to an audience outside of his standard African-American female brand. I wouldn’t go as far to say that he does a good job characterizing his white and Hispanic characters. (After all, there is one scene where Zulay Henao walks into a Mexican restaurant literally to the tune of “Cielito Lindo.” Dear god…) However, I give Perry some credit for trying.
However, in his attempt to branch out and try something a little different, Perry reveals that he really is not a very good director. His cast isn’t bad, featuring actresses who have been in decent films. Unfortunately, the acting is dreadful in this film. Part of it comes from woefully amateurish editing that pauses too long between cuts (presumably waiting for laughter, which comes in a big friendly crowd but fails when no one thinks it’s funny) and poorly improvised reactions.
There are only two performers in this movie that are actually delivering decent performances (and no, neither one is Tyler Perry, who of course appears as a helpful boyfriend). Terry Crews is pretty hilarious as a potential suitor for Cocoa Brown’s character. Unfortunately, he only shows up every 45 minutes or so.
The other decent performance comes from Nia Long, who raises the cringe-worthy dialogue. She’s acting her guts out in this film, and she is quite impressive in the role. I pity her for wasting such a fine performance on a movie like this.
However, compared to many of Perry’s previous films, “The Single Moms Club” manages to not be overly offensive and draconian to its characters. The conflicts in the story are pretty standard and cliche, setting up strawmen for the single moms to defeat at the end in a rambling denouement that gives “Return of the King” a run for its money.
Ultimately, this movie isn’t as much about moms as it is about female bonding. The children in the film are shamefully underwritten, serving as nothing more than set dressing and fight-starters. It’s a shame that a movie with parenting alluded to in the very title really has very little to say about actually being a parent beyond cheap platitudes.
Still… at least no one gets punished with AIDS.