At some point, one would think Tyler Perry's signature character Mabel "Madea" Simmons would run into the Klumps, the family from The Nutty Professor which Eddie Murphy made famous.
But until that happens, Perry will be content with making his own brand of films which mix comedy with rather ordinary dramatic plotlines.
Adapted from his 1999 play of the same name, I Can Do Bad All By Myself (the movie) revolves primarily around April (played by Taraji P. Henson), a jaded nightclub singer whose problems include the bottle, dating a married man Randy (Brian J. White) and dealing with her late sister's three children.
The kids themselves - led by Jennifer (Hope Olaide Wilson) haven't been living the good life either, with no mother to look after them and the thoughts of being split up into different foster homes looming.
Throughout the film, April's steely self-protective shell rarely cracks, although slowly she lets her guard down when Sandino (Adam Rodriguez) moves into her basement to fix up her slowly decaying house.
Sandino's good natured, considerate qualities are in stark contrast to the rather cold and controlling Randy, but those opposites are highlighted later on in a rather bizarre final third which tends to veer off the rails.
As the icy barrier starts to melt, April begins to change. This is driven home with the Pastor's wife Wilma (Gladys Knight) and bartender Tanya (Mary J. Blige) performing songs about being strong and learning to love yourself, with Blige's number alone being almost worth the price of admission.
Meanwhile, with the drama surrounding the characters, Perry manages to toss Madea into the film, albeit too little and primarily too early. A few rambling threats to Jennifer and her two little brothers is quite good early on but Madea's Biblical lesson to Jennifer is priceless. While Jennifer listens intently, Madea discusses how Peter was one of the 12 "disciplines" in a saga which contains Noah's "Arch of St. Louis," Jonah and the whale, Eve and a cruise ship.
While the performances are not bad, they are definitely far from memorable. Yet Perry might have been looking ahead to his next film, the already critically praised Precious (shown as a trailer) which Perry's production company had a hand in creating. To say the trailer had more gravitas and resonance than the ensuing feature presentation would be an understatement.
Added to that is a final half-hour which ties up a handful of items in a rather strange way beginning with an attempted rape. From there April alleges one of the men in her life is a child molester while using a radio and a bathtub filled with water to electrocute the other.
Overall, I Can Do Bad All By Myself could have been tightened up a bit near the conclusion and had more of Perry's stream-of-conscious diatribes, but generally it is more good than bad.
(This film is rated PG-13)