Madea’s been everywhere. She’s even been to jail. But I Can Do Bad All By Myself is not actually a Madea film, per se. She has a cameo, of sorts, but this film is based on a series of stage acts that Perry has collected under the single title of the film. So much of this movie has been out there on stage. I’m not really a fan of Perry’s Madea character and the collection of films she/he’s been involved in. I had a friend once who used to get them for another friend of his, and he used to joke about making me a copy. Now you know why we’re not friends any more. But this film is very different from anything you’ve seen from the Madea character, or honestly out of any of Tyler Perry’s previous film projects.
When the film begins, it looks like it’s going to be another haphazard Madea adventure. She’s asleep in her bed when she hears a crashing sound downstairs. Someone done broke into Madea’s house. You’re already starting to feel sorry for the crooks. That is, until we find out they are three young children. Apparently their parents are dead, and they’ve been living with their grandma, but she’s been AWOL for over four days. Madea does the only thing she can. She feeds the kids, much to the discontent of Perry’s other alter ego, her husband Joe. “You feed them and they keep comin’ back,” he warns. Once she’s heard their heartwarming tale, she takes them to their Aunt April (Henson). April is working as a singer at a local nightclub but is ruining her own life on booze and an abusive relationship. Madea comes knockin’ while she’s trying to sleep and lays the bad news on the wannabe star. April’s got no room in her life for three kids, and on top of that, her church has sent over a homeless Mexican named Sandino (Rodriguez) who needs a place to stay and can pay by doing jobs around the house. We all know from the beginning that grandma’s not coming back, so I’m not really spoiling anything for you there. April will be faced with making some changes in her life, both for the kids and for herself. It’s through music and faith, and a little help from Sandino, that she manages to open her heart to her new family.
The real bonus of this movie is some exceptional music provided by the likes of Gladys Knight (no Pips), Mary J. Blige, Marvin Winans, and Taraji P. Henson. I’m not, for the most part, into this kind of music, but I have to admit that with the notable exception of a film-ending block party song by Blige, I found the music pretty dang good. These are not just simple song cuts or montages here. The songs often run 6 or more minutes, and there are enough of them to almost qualify this as a bona fide musical. All except for the horrible one at the end are solid performances and fit very well into the flow and pacing of the movie itself. Credit Perry for his willingness to buck the system and have such a strong message of faith and family in the movie. It might not be as funny as his Madea franchise has been for most of you, but it is a quality film that I hope he considers as a sign to try something like this again.
I Can Do Bad All By Myself is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC/MPEG-4 codec at an solid 25 mbps. This is a solid transfer, to be sure. Colors really pop in this sometimes very bright world. Wardrobe is often a bit exotic, and it’s captured by not only color but detail that allows a variety of textures to come through. Black levels are impressive, even if they are rarely found on this movie. Everything is sharp, and the print is flawless. It’s as close to reference as you’ll find, even if it’s not one of the more dazzling visual films.
The DTS-HD Master audio is absolutely incredible. The music is where it shines. Every vocal performance is presented in a dynamic presentation to do justice to the heartfelt performances on the screen. The lip matching is off considerably at times, but it won’t matter when all you’ll want to do is sit back and listen. Dialog is fine as well, but the music is where this uncompressed audio really delivers.
A Soulful Ensemble: (10:05) HD Cast and crew offer up mostly synopsis material and character profiles.
The Power Of Music: (5:51) HD Cast and crew talk about the importance of the musical numbers here and the performers who delivered the goods. Many others recount what it was like on the set while Gladys Knight belted out a tune and had the whole crew singing along like “100 Pips” in attendance.
Tyler Perry’s Block Party: (4:41) HD A look at the only part of the film I did not enjoy, the end block party wedding. I wasn’t surprised to discover it was never in the script and only thought of the day before it was shot. I really think the movie was better without it. It’s an overindulgence in an otherwise very solid film.
I haven’t seen much of Tyler Perry’s work to make a true comparison, but I suspect this may be his best work. It shows that the one trick pony I always thought he was has more than a few other tricks in his saddlebag. I hope that the success of the film wakes him up to the possibilities of life beyond Madea. He’s taken some heat recently because of the racial overtones of his Madea act. I don’t think that’s quite fair, and don’t think that’s why he might want to leave the straight talkin’ fiery drag behind him. This is a much better reason, after all. Perry, take your own advice here. “You’ve got to ease that ugliness up on people.”