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Why Did I Get Married

Alfeo Dixon / Lionsgate

Review in a Hurry:  Prolific writer-director Tyler Perry offers a dark meditation on marital woes, sending four couples on a retreat to work on relationships rife with VD, verbal abuse, incompatible goals and more. Fear not, though, because big issues also beget big, natural laughs.

The Bigger Picture:  In the movies, we usually watch a man and woman flirt, bicker and then ride off into the sunset. In this film, Perry challenges the "happily ever after" myth by exploring four different but equally messed up couples that gather for an annual reunion. It's not fun and games, though, as they embark on this mountain getaway to work on their marriages.

The movie is light; they joke about being black people in Colorado. The movie is dark; secrets are exposed and the outlook for love is much bleaker than the view of the landscape.

The do-it-all Perry (Madea's Family Reunion, Diary of a Mad Black Woman) adapts from his stage play and gets great performances out of everyone, in part because they all seem so sure of their characters. Jill Scott is a breakout, and Tasha Smith has the greatest lines and she does them justice.

There is the power couple: He (Perry) wants more babies; she (Sharon Leal) wants to work. There is the bitchy couple: He (Michael Jai White) wants to fight; she (Smith) wants to fight and drink. There is the couple you want to run from: He (Richard T. Jones) makes fat jokes; she (Scott) cowers and feels worthless. And, at the center of it all, there is the poster couple for marriage. She (Janet Jackson) is a relationship expert who writes books about her friends; he (Malik Yoba) is her supportive husband…well, sort of.

Now, a movie about a bunch of friends hanging out in a lavish house in snow country, cooking dinner and sipping wine, could easily slip into sitcom territory, or self-important drama-rama. Perry is wise to bring on the serious issues such as verbal abuse, infidelity, financial treachery and STDs. The resulting laughs are nervous and the tears look real.

Watching Married isn't just a helluva lot more fun than reading a self-help, it's a helluva lot more enlightening, too.

The 180—A Second Opinion:  Next time, Perry should rethink his cinematography and demand a bigger budget for set design. The audience is always aware that this is an adaptation of a stage play. A little more action and a little less conversation would also help elevate it to pure film.