Sunday, March 06, 2005

Tyler Perry's Diary of a Mad Black Woman


This dark, comic melodrama starts out with a very promising lead. Kimberly Elise is Helen. She has been married for eighteen years to Atlanta socialite-lawyer Charles McCarter (Steve Harris). On the night of their anniversary, Charles literally drags her out of their mansion as he brings in his new sweetheart.

As Helen picks herself up from the humiliating abandonment of her husband she meets Orlando (Shemar Moore), the U-haul driver her husband conveniently hired to drive her out of their house. They start out on a bad note and Orlando finds himself kicked out of the truck in the middle of nowhere.

Helen, confused and penniless, moves into her grandparents' house. With the assistance of his cousin Bryan and the prodding of her homicidal grandma Madea, she sues Charles for a part of their money.

Until this part the movie was still doing okay until you start realizing that something seems odd with the actor portraying Madea. She bears an uncanny resemblance to the actor portraying Bryan and to the actor playing Grandpa Joe. Finally, you get to realize that all three are being portrayed by one person. At first, it appears to be inspired casting but the moment you start noticing the actor more than the developing characters and story, then it makes for a bad case of miscasting.

Tyler Perry does three characters in this movie and however you look at it, it was an awful judgment that sent the film declining into mediocrity. Whoever gave Perry the idea to portray three characters when three different actors could have done it is beyond me. Sure, Perry is a famous Broadway playwright but that doesn't excuse his seeming self-aggrandizing exercise in a film that had the makings of greatness. To be fair, Perry can act and if this was a stage play he would surely get the loudest cheer from me. Sadly, however, the medium here is different and in the movies the element of characterization is essentially rooted in proper casting.

However, there are still finer aspects in this movie that cannot be completely overshadowed by the scam of Perry chief of which are the performances of Kimberly Elise and the adorable Cicely Tyson.

Elise fits perfectly the scorned wife role. She oozes with charm in her scenes with Moore and billows a perplexing rage when she finally had the upper hand against her deceitful ex-husband.

In the film's final church scenes showing the renewal of faith of several characters, the writer whips up the traditional soul movie formula with the hysteria of melodrama and it was wonderfully executed. For that, I credit Mr. Perry for his writing.

The Pacifier


In The Pacifier, Vin Diesel portrays Navy SEAL Shane Wolfe who is being punished for failing to protect a scientist from the hands of his terrorist captors.

The movie takes the route of the fish-out-of-the-water formula. Wolfe gets assigned to protect the children of the slain scientist while the mom is trying to unlock the password to the Swiss bank deposit box that may hold the secret government program the slain scientist was working on.

The movie focuses on the domestic education of Wolfe and the boot camp training of the children - three rowdy older kids, one can't-sleep-till-you-dance-the-peter-panda-dance tyke and a baby who vomits on cue!

The movie is designed to expand the reach of Diesel by following the route taken by Arnold Szchwarzenegger in Kindergarten Cop. But, sadly, the movie fails to elicit a bit of excitement. Even if the plot goes to Home Alone and Spy Kids territory, it just can't manage to entertain. Sure, it does provide some good laughs (scenes with the nanny Helga are such a delight!), the story itself just can't break out of its tired formula. Even the actors who portray the children are not that adorable, sigh.

Save for Faith Ford's brief but refreshing appearance in the movie's beginning and end, The Pacifier needed more than the unnatural comic antics of its lead, Diesel, who seems to be portraying himself - an action star doing a comedy, and it simply distracts the viewer.


Hitch

Will Smith is Alex Hitchens. He is Hitch, the "Date doctor", to his clients of homely gentlemen looking for that recipe to snatch the women of their dreams into their tender arms in a conquering embrace of true love.

Hitch has had no problem with his thriving trade until he meets Sarah Melas (portrayed by the charming and beautiful Eva Mendez), a gossip columnist whose relationship with men is guardedly limited to the initial pleasantries. Hitch, who coaches the portly accountant Albert (Kevin James) who pines for New York's ultra-socialite Allegra Cole (Amber Valleta), finds himself in the same boat as that of his clients - he can't seem to find the right footing whenever he is around Sarah.

Eventually, Sarah and Hitch will find themselves falling in love until a shocking revelation hits Sarah and put the budding romance into trouble-alley.

Andy Tennant's light, feel-good movie attempts to break the "chick-flick" drawback of every romantic comedy by focusing on the affairs of the dominant male lead. In some aspect (especially the early part where the central character is slowly being introduced and built-up) it succeeds. The casting of Smith is particularly praiseworthy as he was able to channel a completely different persona from that of an action hero the audience has grown accustomed to.

However successful this spin is, the final product still leaves a big gaping hole that not a simple patch of tested romantic formula can completely coat. The imagined crisis as the movie was about to end comes off too contrived and lacks credibility. I wonder why the characters of Sarah and Hitch took forever to define only to take a bewildering turnaround at the end. Or could it all be explained by the oft-blamed four-letter word LOVE? I don't know because I thought this movie had it but then it lost it in the end.



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