Tyler Perry’s “For Colored Girls” has come and gone. Like most of his work, it was a critically panned, melodramatic, over the top and frankly annoying piece of cinema, but hey, it still made a boat load of cash. After a film like “For Colored Girls” which saw Perry (sort of) stepping outside of his safety zone, the idea of him going back to “Madea”, seems like a step backwards. What should Tyler Perry do next?
Stop directing. Why? Because since 2005 Perry has directed ten films, all garnering pretty low marks both artistically and technically. These films have been panned for stereotypical portrayals of African Americans, not featuring nearly enough strong male characters, and even some cries from the black community about dark versus light skin racism.
Perry obviously has issues he cares deeply about and likes to highlight in his writing. Domestic violence, strong women overcoming adversity, the power of God and friendship, but there has to be new ways to tackle the subject matter without putting it through the “Madea” treatment.
Tyler Perry is a writer, and he should write. He should write and write and write and become the Judd Apatow of Atlanta. He should select one or two passion projects every couple of years and direct those, then farm out his other creative work to more gifted people. Same empire, better movies.
Perry’s movies are lacking in subtly. There’s moments of terrible tragedy bookmarked by sequences of ridiculous slapstick. There’s never a layer of depth behind the barest motivation. This person has PTSD, thus, he drinks and eventually kills his children. This girl must find God to be saved because her daddy beat her, and so on. Perry’s current style is up and down. Perry will write jokes, then serious parts, then a huge blowup involving someone getting hit, followed by the dues ex machina to save the day. It’s like riding a roller coaster that slows down before the loop-de-loop.
Subtly, even little nuances of set design or little throw away lines of dialog could make the characters in his films have the depth they need to become truly compelling. Imagine if a Tyler Perry script found its way into the hands of a talented director like Tony Scott. Tony Scott has helmed the recent “Unstoppable” and makes serious movies with great moments of comic relief. Scott would have the pull and cajones to actually change some scenes or actions around to make the movies a bit more even and better paced.
What Perry needs more than anything is for someone to tell him no. Someone over his shoulder letting him know if something is a good idea, if something is maybe a bit too far out there, if maybe he wants to try writing something a different way.
This is not going to happen. It won’t happen because Perry is a brand. That why his movies are marketed on him, and not, well, his movies. Except “For Colored Girls” which was marketed on the cast. And him. It’s a start.
*Author’s note: Perry’s next film is in fact another Madea film.