Tyler Perry, best known for Madea’s Family Reunion, is responsible for yet another film in Lionsgate’s line of movies about nice black people. In Daddy’s Little Girls, the writer-director explores the conflict between the ghetto-class African Americans we’ve seen so much of in films and the black middle- and upper-class we haven’t. While this aspect of the conflict is relatively fresh in cinema, what the premise really boils down to isÂ an age-old tale of love between princess and pauper.
When his mother-in-law passes away, Monty (Idris Elba, The Gospel) is forced to take care of his three daughters full-time. While he loves them and has been supporting them faithfully their whole lives, Monty is also struggling financially and the burden may prove too much. The mother of his kids, Jennifer (Tasha Smith, The Whole Ten Yards), has been absent for years, preferring to live it up with her drug-dealer boyfriend, Joe (Gary Sturgis, Pride).
Monty is a car mechanic who dreams of having his own shop, which he plans to buy from his boss and friend, Willie, played by Louis Gosset Jr. (An Officer and a Gentleman). Willie also runs a car service, and when his usual driver quits, Monty is pressed into taking the gig. He’s assigned to chauffeur a high-class lawyer client, Julia (Gabrielle Union, Deliver Us From Eva). She’s a tough nut, and not interested in fraternizing with the help, until circumstances force them together.
Julia is on hand when Monty learns he’s losing custody of his daughters to Jennifer and Joe, and she eventually agrees to help him out in court. What starts as a professionalÂ favour turns out to be a lot more personal when the two fall for each other, and Jennifer faces scorn from her upper-class cronies over her relationship with Monty,Â while Monty struggles against gangster-Joe’s stranglehold on his ghetto community.
There you have it. Some parts fresh, some parts formula, the film is passably enjoyable. It has an awkward first act, things pick up in the second and the finish is fairly satisfying finish.
On the positive side, it’s a pretty solid cast. British-man Elba does a stand-up job as the leading man, and Union is good but uneven as the leading lady – I don’t buy her as the snob, but once she finallyÂ warms up to Monty she finds her character. In supporting roles, Gosset Jr. and the McClain sisters, who play the three daughters, are standouts.
But then we have the script, by celebrated playwright Tyler Perry. He’s guilty of saying and not showing all over the place, and the result is that awkward first 30-40 minutes, which nearly had me turning off the movie. When you have talented actors, Perry, you don’t need to say everything with words. Let them act. Seriously.
Criticisms aside, the fact remains that Tyler Perry has an established audience, and as he continues to improve as a screenwriter and director, they’ll hopefully see an evolution away from formula and toward truly fresh ideas. They’re listening to your voice, Perry, so start thinking about what you really want to say.
Daddy’s Little Girls is presented on a single disc, in 1.85:1 widescreen format. It’s a top-notch transfer, free of source or compression issues. Colours are consistently natural and details are sharp, so all is well. By far the most visually interesting scene is the one shot in Atlanta’s aquarium, which is the second largest in the world. It must have been quite the challenge to light, but it certainly paid off, particularly with the conversation between Monty and Julia in front of the giant aquarium window, with the tiger shark swimming in and out of the shot. Otherwise, the cinematography is just the usual.
Main English audio is Dolby Digital 5.1, which does a fine job presenting the film’s melodramatic dialogue, soundtrack, score and few effects. Sound is well-balanced, with everything audible and nothing strange going on. Of course, thereÂ will be times when you wished the dialogue was inaudible, but that can’t be helped.
English audio is also available in Dolby Digital 2.0, with another 2.0 track in Spanish. Subtitles are offered in English and Spanish.
Daddy’s Little Girls comes with a handful of bonus features, with no real standouts. I’d call this offering slightly better than average, at least for a single-disc release. Here’s the breakdown:
- Audio commentary by writer-director Tyler Perry: this man is enthusiastic about his project, which makes for an energetic commentary. Unfortunately, he’s also blissfully unaware that some of the things he expresses admiration about are actually faults that hold the film back.
- Extended Church Scene: at about seven minutes, all I can say is thank goodness this one was edited down for the final film. We learn in the commentary that the real-life minister in this scene actually improvised much of his sermon, so I suppose it’s nice to see the whole deal presented here.
- The Atlanta Aquarium – Working Underwater: while it only runs a couple of minutes, this is my favourite of the extras. I had no idea Atlanta was home to one of the world’s finest aquariums, but after seeing Daddy’s Little Girls and this featurette, this city is on my list of places to visit.
- Tyler’s Team – the Cast and Characters: running a chubby 14 minutes, this piece offers the usual rundown of the film’s cast and the characters they play, with lots of praise from the filmmaking team and a few quirky bits from fellow cast members.
- Introducing the McClain Sisters: a short piece about the real-life sisters who play Monty’s daughters. Part of me thinks they’re obnoxious, but the other says they’re just cute, talented kids. You be the judge.
- More: not sure if the title is appropriate, since this is just the collection of trailers that runs when you fire up the DVD. Ah well.
Tyler Perry has proven he can make successful films by relying on formulaic plots with all- or mostly black casts. Whether or notÂ he continues with the ham-fisted melodramas, he has fans who will be interested in this disc. Lucky for them, it’s a good-quality release.