Even Tyler Perry's detractors have to admire the efficiency of his operation. Perry's Madea's Family Reunion began life as a stage play and was taped for a 2002 direct-to-DVD release before becoming a 2006 box-office hit. Why Did I Get Married? is the latest product of Perry's "write it once, sell it three times" approach. It also began as a stage play, which was subsequently taped for home video just last year and is now the filmmaker's second theatrical release of 2007, following February's Daddy's Little Girls. Projects like Reunion and Married hit cinemas road-tested and audience-approved. Maybe that's why Perry's latest feels clumsy and stiff yet undeniably rousing all the same. It's such a sure thing with Perry's devotees that the scene-stealing role Tasha Smith plays here could easily have justified stage directions during its theatrical incarnation like "Pause for extended hooting, hollering, and applause" following every "oh snap!"-worthy insult or one-liner.
Tyler puts away his Madea get-up here to star as one of a group of upper-class college friends who reunite at a snowy retreat with plenty of baggage in tow, emotional and otherwise. Lowdown snake Richard T. Jones abandons zaftig wife Jill Scott after she's kicked off a plane to the reunion for being too fat—a scene played for maudlin drama rather than cheap laughs—so he can spend more time with his sexy mistress, but not before twisting the knife with ugly insults about Scott's weight. Bestselling author Janet Jackson and her husband struggle with their child's death while Smith and her Steadman-esque hubby confront venereal disease and infidelity. Meanwhile, pediatrician Perry tries to cure his career-minded wife's workaholism.
Perry belongs firmly in the "tell, don't show" school of kitchen-sink melodrama. Married groans with artless exposition early on that pays off in a pair of crowd-pleasing acts of marital violence. The film delves into so many loaded issues, from body image to gender roles, that it's almost easier to list the hot-button topics it doesn't explore. Smith emerges as this subtlety-impaired film's most intriguingly ambiguous character, at times an acid-tongued shrew and at others a bluntly righteous truth-teller. The liveliness of her performance helps ensure that while Married is stiffly written, didactic, and whiplash-inducing in its tonal shifts, it's also very seldom dull.