The latest movie from writer-director-cottage industry Tyler Perry did not screen in advance for critics, a decision that makes perfect sense.
Perry's loyal built-in audience won't care about reviews, and the movie is unlikely to win many raves.
Adapting his own stage play, Perry serves up his patented mix of sermonizing, self-help platitudes and ham-handed ensemble comedy. The story revolves around a "couples retreat" -- a group vacation including several people you wouldn't want to share a cab ride with, let alone a week in a remote mountain cabin. There's not much skiing or sightseeing on the itinerary, but there is a whole lot of bickering.
Each couple has its own set of problems. Workaholic Diane (Sharon Leal) doesn't share husband Terry's (Perry) need to breed. Philandering Marcus (Michael Jai White) may have given acid-tongued Angela (Tasha Smith) a sexually transmitted disease. Psychologist Patricia (Janet Jackson) and architect Gavin (Malik Yoba) are living in denial of a family tragedy.
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Then there's the thoroughly loathsome Mike (Richard T. Jones), who shows up at the cabin with his mistress after his wife, Sheila (Jill Scott), is thrown off their flight for being overweight. Sheila is forced to drive through a snowstorm and is treated to a pointlessly cruel barrage of insults from Mike once she arrives.
Oprah fans may find something uplifting and life-affirming in all this, but for the rest of us, it's not a lot of fun. The one real bright spot is Scott's endearing, almost heart-breaking performance -- no easy feat on her part, given the blunt, tin-eared material.