Tyler Perry’s The Single Moms Club film review
Tyler Perry’s The Single Moms Club (2014)
Nia Long, Amy Smart, Terry Crews, Tyler Perry, Cocoa Brown, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Zulay Henao
CRITIC’S RATING: * 1/2 stars (out of 4 stars)
There has always been a constant love-hate relationship between filmmaker/media mogul Tyler Perry and the majority of movie critics throughout the years. Simply put: Perry loved to hate his critical naysayers and film reviewers for the most part hated to love Perry’s brand of one-dimensional, synthetic cinema. Well, this see-saw movie-themed mentality between the one-note Perry and finicky film critiquers is not going to disappear anytime soon with the release of the slaphappy but uneventfully lame Tyler Perry’s The Single Moms Club. Basically, this is yet another opportunistic attempt for Perry’s impulse to pander to the estrogen-driven, Oprah-loving curvaceous crowd.
Sadly, Perry pretty much beats the same old sentimental drum of saggy drama and empty-minded slapstick in The Single Moms Club that feels so tired and false. It is the same retreaded sermon that echoes what Perry carries in his exhausting and obvious messaging of so-called female empowerment–this time under the guise of disillusioned motherhood/womanhood. Perry slickly caters to the feminine anthem that every woman is deserving of a decent, trusting and loving man and hey…who can argue with this reasonable expectation from the point of view of hopeful females from all walks of life? The problem is that The Single Moms Club comes off as flat, meandering and gimmicky while never establishing a tone of soulful stability in its irreverent skin. Sure, the need to showcase the malaise of a group of diverse women struggling with the rigors of raising kids, carving out successful careers and moving from duplicitous and deadbeat men to ones that will fulfill their romantic emptiness is indeed an ambitious undertaking that could have made for some riveting, psychological entertainment. Unfortunately, The Single Moms Club does not have the emotional depth or structured wackiness to support this woefully flimsy Mommy Dearest/man-hunting farce.
Perry has struggled creatively to deviate from his inexplicably popular, dependable and boisterous signature Madea crowd-pleasing movies and try his hand at more drama-driven ditties deep in sexual cynicism and angst-ridden femininity such as misfires Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor, Why Did I Get Married?, The Family That Preys and the mixed reception of For Colored Girls. However, Perry’s lighthearted approach to The Single Moms Club may be considered a needed reprieve from the aforementioned heavy-handed hokum. Still, the meager directing-writing-producing efforts that Perry invests in the callow Club is not worthy of the colorful yet stereotypical on-screen women involved in this membership of movie-making mediocrity.
Perry (who also plays one of the ladies’ good-natured groomed suitors) introduces us to five women that have a few things in common–they are all beleaguered single mothers that have problematic children studying at an elite Atlanta private school. Because their offspring are academically in danger of getting expelled from the posh school, the five ladies must commit to helping out with a fundraising event to appease the stuffy faculty members. Soon, the handful of mothers realize that their womanly bond with child-rearing and unreliable ex-spouses is something worth exploring in terms of forming a support group that solidifies their frustrations.
Journalist May (Nia Long, “The Best Man Holiday”) is concerned about her pre-teenager son’s absent father whose constant no-show routine for their child is a cause for wondering about the boy’s neglected psyche. Working-class diner waitress Lytia (Cocoa Brown, “For Better or Worse”) is trying to make ends meet and keep her youngest son from her residential housing projects’ criminal activities and not having him following the jailbird path of his imprisoned older brothers. Esperanza (Zulay Hanao) has a nice romance going with handsome bartender Manny (William Levy) but must keep her relationship with him under wraps because her verbally abusive and controlling wealthy ex-husband may start to withhold the funds that keep her financially afloat. Socialite Hillary (Amy Smart) put her hubby ahead of her three kids’ parental needs and her man ended up leaving her despite making him her main priority of attention. Finally, publishing executive Jan (Wendi McLendon-Covey, “Bridesmaids”) is clashing with her sperm-bank conceived daughter because her kid feels that she is more concerned about her thriving career than her personal welfare.
Perry’s pronounced emphasis for women-related anxieties and dignities in balancing the vulnerable self-identities of his hampered female protagonists may seem admirable for some of the feminine masses out there that can relate to his generous winking at their everyday mental obstacles in a confining world cluttered with overly needy dependents, working woes and misguided men looking to be rescued and replaced by a better crop of male providers armed with sanity and sensitivity. Nevertheless, The Single Moms Club fails to also think outside the box in its ode to true female liberation and independence. Refreshingly, why cannot Perry have his big screen serving of sisterhood go in a different direction and have them feel just as secure and solid in not necessarily needing a man to complete them? Does Perry’s universal perception of women always have to incorporate their insistence in lassoing a man to justify any validity to their unbalanced existence as fully engaged women? Interestingly, the notion that some women feel the neediness in having a man at their side at all costs is so ingrained in the mindset of so many women out there that reflect Perry’s familiar feminist mantra. This revelation in some ways is a crying shame but also a perceived reality to a desperate woman hopelessly coping in a restrictive male-dominated society.
Tyler Perry’s The Single Moms Club wants to push the antagonistic button pertaining to the hurdles of its group of spirited women dealing with the stress and pressures of their demanding children and past/present male admirers. Foolishly, the film merely uses the kids and the revolving door of male meat (including the casting of suave Eddie Cibrian and the always charismatic, affable and hulking Terry Crews) as a convenient backdrop to the lackluster zaniness that Club musters up in its transparent energy. Each of the sparkling five women are assembled as put-upon rainbow rag dolls enthralled in a series of string-along scenes that lazily feature a few forced laughs, manufactured flirtations and kiddie-related conflicts. Perry’s collection of detached divas of different shades (two black women, two white women and the token Hispanic woman but wait…no Asians or Indians in the melting pot mix?) are cardboard cuties saddled with dismissive dialogue and strained sass. One never really gets a solid sense of comedic or caustic crisis in The Single Moms Club because the subplots of adversity for these man-craving motherly maidens feel relentlessly uninspired.
The cliched strife and giddy insecurities behind Tyler Perry’s The Single Moms Club is another preachy puff piece from Perry to all the devoted gals out there that buy his awkwardly motivating girl power, gospel-toting gumption that reliable manhood is the guaranteed key to withering womanhood’s self-discovery. Where is the outlandish motor-mouthed Madea when you need her to slap some backbone common sense into these single mommy clubbers?
NOTE: Focus of New York film critic Frank Ochieng is a member of: