"Married Too" a familiar blend of laughs, melodrama

Fri Apr 2, 2010 7:41pm EDT
 
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By Frank Scheck

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - As usual, Tyler Perry didn't screen his latest opus in advance for the media and, as usual, he didn't have to.

As the title suggests, "Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married Too?" -- which Lionsgate released Friday -- is a sequel to his popular film of several years ago, continuing the story of four couples coping with various marital crises. Displaying his usual mixture of broad, sitcom-style humor and soapy melodramatics, it's an entertaining, if hokey, effort that his target audience will eat up.

Unlike the earlier film, which took place in the wintry environs of Colorado, this one includes a lengthy section set in the Bahamas, no doubt guaranteeing the cast and crew some fun in the sun. Although it ultimately presents an inspirational portrait of marriage, it takes a long time getting there, as the four couples depicted have serious issues.

Terry (Perry, nicely underplaying) suspects that his high-powered lawyer wife, Dianne (Sharon Leal), is having an affair. Sheila (Jill Scott), now married to nice guy Troy (Lamman Rucker), is worried about her husband being out of work and is highly discomfited by the sudden reappearance of her dastardly ex, Mike (Richard T. Jones). The volatile Angela (Tasha Smith) still is insanely suspicious of her television sports reporter husband, Marcus (Michael Jai White). And relationship expert Patricia (Janet Jackson) reveals that she and hubby Gavin (Malik Yoba) are on the verge of divorcing.

Things heat up even more upon the couples' return home, with Perry throwing everything but the kitchen sink -- including a serious illness afflicting one of the central characters -- into the mix. By now, there's little point in criticizing the Perry formula, which seems to work just fine in pushing the audience's buttons. Indeed, the raucous laughter and frequent gasps emanating from the large crowd at an opening-day screening were testament to his indisputable crowd-pleasing, if not technical, abilities.

Despite what the plot synopsis might indicate, this effort actually is more restrained than most in the filmmaker's prodigious output, though a climactic sequence in which Jackson's character has an emotional meltdown nearly crosses the border into camp.

The film's biggest laughs are scored by Smith and White as the perpetually warring couple, and Scott again displays a highly appealing naturalness. In a nice touch, veterans Cicely Tyson and Lou Gossett Jr. show up for a scene as an elderly couple who have issues of their own. A climactic cameo by a movie star previously unseen in the Perry universe is a testament to the filmmaker's ever-increasing clout and a possible harbinger of a third film in the series.