Making the Grades
Tyler Perry has donned the fat suit once again to revive his characters Madea, a crude, strong-willed matriarch, and her brother Joe. However the elderly couple is little more than a sideshow in this script that deals with mature themes of sexual assault and societal challenges.
Madea is startled out of her beauty sleep one night to the sound of thieves ransacking her main floor. It turns out to be 16-year-old Jennifer (Hope Olaide Wilson) and her brothers Manny (Kwesi Boakye) and Byron (Frederick Siglar). The siblings, who grew up in a home with a crack-addicted mother, have been passed on to their grandma (Greta Glenn). Unfortunately the aged woman has been missing for several days and the kids need some quick cash for food.
After forcing the trio to the ground and beating them with a stick, Madea and Joe feed the starving children and interrogate them about their past. Then, with their grandma temporarily out of the picture, Madea drops the youngsters off at the house of their Aunt April (Taraji P. Henson), a boozing, smoking, self-absorbed lounge singer who shares her bed with a married man.
But kids are the last things Randy (Brian J. White), a family man with four offspring of his own, wants hanging around his love nest. He is even less impressed with the Colombian immigrant (Adam Rodriquez) that the local church leader sends to live in April’s basement. To show his distain, the two-timing lover doesn’t forgo any opportunity to insult and disparage the quiet, handsome handyman.
Perry may never be known for subtlety. In fact, many of these characters and even the storyline seem to smack viewers upside the head like a good slap from Madea herself. Yet while this plot follows a familiar theme found in many of the director’s other movies (a good woman caught up in a relationship with a loser), this film justifies or at least explains where these characters are coming from and the motivation for their choices. While Aunt April, her niece and nephews and a host of others have all suffered their share of trauma, they respond to the tragedies in different ways. In one scene, an adult male attempts to sexually attack a teenaged girl. (The incident is interrupted along the way.) Other characters deal with severe physical abuse, abandonment, immigration and health issues.
Aided by the kindhearted Pastor Brian (Marvin Winans) and a supportive religious community, some of the victims face their hardships and move forward with their responsibilities. Others wallow in the past, drowning themselves in addictive substances that dull the pain.
With several musical performances by real life preacher and gospel singer Marvin Winans, Grammy-award winner Gladys Knight and recording artist Mary J. Blige, this movie’s soundtrack provides plenty of entertainment itself. Many parents, though, may want to consider the mature nature of this film before taking their teens. Still Perry manages to give hope for a better future to his characters, even if he can’t begin to tackle all of the social issues introduced in the script.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Tyler Perry’s I Can Do Bad All By Myself.
April’s only concern in her life seems to be making herself happy. How do her sister’s children impact her hedonist lifestyle? What does she learn about her own ability to accept responsibility?
How can traumatic experiences in a person’s life, like being sexually assaulted or abandoned, impact one’s feelings of self-worth? What characters in this film have troubled pasts? How does each of them deal with those difficulties? What individual choices do they make?
Madea tells Jennifer that if you put good things into life, good things generally come out good. Jennifer is also told that you get what you expect from others. Do you agree with these comments? How do our expectations of life or of others influence our outlook and interactions?