Total Recall: Movies Directed by Tyler Perry
We count down the best-reviewed directorial work of the Peeples producer.
The critics haven't exactly been kind to Tyler Perry over the years, but with nearly $700 million in lifetime domestic grosses, he's definitely a filmmaker who understands his audience -- and with that audience preparing to lineup for his latest production, this weekend's Tyler Perry Presents Peeples, we thought now would be the perfect time to take a look back at the best-reviewed entries in his ever-growing filmography. Put on your Sunday dress, pull up those support hose, and grab a shotgun -- it's Tyler Perry Presents Tyler Perry's Total Recall!
Say what you will about Tyler Perry's movies, but he consistently manages to assemble casts filled with excellent actors -- and for 2007's Daddy's Little Girls, his talent included Idris Elba, Louis Gossett, Jr., and Gabrielle Union. Unfortunately, all that thespian power wasn't enough to rescue the movie from critical brickbats, but for a select few scribes, this story of a blue-collar mechanic (Elba) who falls for a wealthy attorney (Union) threw off enough fizzy rom-com sparks to compensate for its thinly sketched characters and exposition-heavy script. "I entered this moviegoing experience ready for a lot of wincing and eye-rolling," admitted Toddy Burton of the Austin Chronicle, "but dammit if this movie didn't make me laugh and cry."
Given how regularly she tussles with her kin, you'd think a family reunion would be the last thing Madea would want to plan, but that's exactly what she does in Madea's Family Reunion, the 2006 adaptation of Perry's play in which his infamously cranky matriarch finds herself at the center of a fresh batch of poorly timed familial drama. This time around, Madea has to juggle preparations for the titular event with a mounting series of problems, including her sister's funeral, the court-ordered delivery of a maladjusted teen (Keke Palmer), and the personal travails of her nieces (played by Rochelle Aytes and Lisa Anderson). "Let's not sell Tyler Perry short," urged Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly amidst Family Reunion's poor critical reception. "As the vinegar-witted Madea, he's a drag performer of testy charm, but in his overlit patchwork way he's also making the most primal women's pictures since Joan Crawford flexed her shoulder pads."
Two decades after Jim Varney's Ernest ended up in the big house, Tyler Perry followed suit with Madea Goes to Jail, an adaptation of his play about the pistol-packing granny's adventures in the hoosegow. In court after being arrested for the high-speed chase she led police through during Meet the Browns, Madea gets off on a technicality, only to go on an immediate rampage that finds her threatening uninvited houseguests with a machine gun and clearing a Kmart parking space with a forklift truck. Safely behind bars, she meets up with a hooker with a heart of gold (played, to many audience members' intense discomfort, by Keshia Knight Pulliam of Cosby Show fame) and before long, everyone gets a happy ending (not that kind -- get your mind out of the gutter). That's a lot of plot for one movie to handle, and quite a few critics felt Perry bungled the tricky business of integrating Madea Goes to Jail's drama with its comedy -- but that was a minor complaint for Melissa Anderson of the Village Voice, who shrugged, "As ridiculous as his films frequently are, Perry, a shrewd yet benevolent showman, knows and loves his audience."
Like many of Perry's movies, Good Deeds' title contains a touch of punny humor -- its protagonist (played by Perry, natch) is a good guy named Walter Deeds -- but it's also a simple statement of purpose. For this 2012 drama, Perry tried taking a look at just how powerful one good deed can be, showing Walter as a well-meaning but socially insulated businessman whose chance encounter with a struggling cleaning lady (Thandie Newton) sparks a profound change in his life. It's the type of premise that demands a feather-light touch from a filmmaker, and unfortunately, most critics agreed that Perry's direction and screenplay smothered Good Deeds in poorly paced, dully delivered drama. Slant Magazine's Rob Humanick offered one of the few dissenting opinions, however, asserting that "Perry's considerate plotting is deliberate, perhaps even overlong, but with an attuned sense of people's evolving feelings and relationships."
Another Tyler Perry play that made the jump from stage to screen, Meet the Browns follows the adventures of a struggling single mother (Angela Bassett) who gets a double whammy: first she loses her job, then she finds out that her father (who she's never even met) has died. Far from a mopey drama, however, Browns provides its desperate protagonist with a family she never knew she had -- including, of course, an irascible, linebacker-shaped old lady named Madea. At this point, the lines were already pretty well drawn between Perry's audience and his critics, and for the most part, they stayed on opposite sides for Meet the Browns, although it did resonate with some scribes -- like Entertainment Weekly's Lisa Schwarzbaum, who wrote, "The importance of faith, church, kin, staying off drugs, sharing food, repenting from sin, forgiving sinners, appreciating a good black man, rejecting a bad one, and honoring black matriarchy is enumerated with typical, reassuring Perry broadness."