Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Evolution of Perry

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Being the movie buff that I am, I was web surfing for new movie trailers and I stumbled across the latest one from African-American uber producer, Tyler Perry. The film adaptation of I Can Do Bad All By Myself debuts this fall and, based on the preview, seems to represent Perry's move toward more serious fare. While it still features the matriarch icon Madea, Bad focuses on the story of a young woman who has loses her will to love and, in turn, poisons those around her to do the same. It's the same story we've seen in the film (and stage) versions Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Madea's Family Reunion, and Meet The Browns. Despite that, it seems like Perry is embracing a more mainstream approach to his films now....he seems duly ready to officially crossover into popular culture, meaning the multiplexes will now look even more diverse when the new film hits.

Tyler Perry has been revered as the leader of the pack in African American entertainment. He has forgone the serious, hard-hitting conceptual movies a la Spike Lee and John Singleton and instead embraced family fare, riddled with drama and interlaced with comedy. He's been criticized for setting black cinema back decades....with many saying his films (and his signature role, Madea) are a throwback to the "chuckin and jivin" era of blaxploitation films. However, everyone must note that Perry has slowly but surely established himself as a major force in the motion picture business. While he is not necessarily reserving his invitation to the splashy Academy Awards, he is wowing pundits when his movies regularly open at number one, each one breaking its predecessors astonishing opening weekend numbers. He is commanding major talent from all genres, from Academy Award winners like Kathy Bates (The Family That Preys) and Louis Gossett, Jr. (Daddy's Little Girls) to fresh, new faces like Taraji P. Henson (Family That Preys, Bad) and Idris Elba (Girls). He's giving screentime to seasoned vets like Cicely Tyson and Alfre Woodard while also drawing in the likes of music senstaions like Mary J. Blige, Gladys Knight (both co-star in Bad), Jill Scott and Janet Jackson (both in Why Did I Get Married?). His films are starting to seem a tad bit more heavyweight, still focusing on relationships and family but now interspersing them with drug abuse, alcoholism, prejudice and financial woes. He is a writer, director and executive producer and everyone has to admit he is his own best collaborator.

I'm sure that I Can Do Bad All By Myself will get the biggest promotional push thus far of any of his films and rightfully so. It's Blige's first movie role in ages and Henson is currently on the A-list, thanks to her Academy-Award nominated turn in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Coming soon from the extraordinnaire: a sequel to Why Did I Get Married (my favorite of his films) and Madea's Class Reunion. My one gripe is that I'm a bit exhausted from the women done wrong stories....a refreshing love story without all the angst, baby mama drama and scars should definitely be in the cards soon. And the fact that top talent like Angela Bassett are actually hunting HIM down for roles could actually lead to such a great story.

Combined with his ratings-rich television hits House of Payne and Meet The Browns, Perry has gradually risen to the top of his class. Did anyone even notice Spike Lee's film last year, the quite good Miracle at St. Anna? Not really....but the theaters were packed for Madea Goes To Jail. He's in a class of his own and surely enjoying the ride. My hope is that his films continue to evolve into thought-provoking, entertaining works of art that will allow us as a people to unashamedly say that our stories have a place on the big screen as well. And maybe, just maybe, he'll be at the a nominee.


XIKhai said...

I love this article SA! I'm feeling it...this goes perfectly with the idea of what I want the entertainment and other articles to look like. It's relevant, forward thinking and informative....Muah! Perfection!

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