Seven years after giving single fathers a cinematic salute with DADDY’S LITTLE GIRLS, Tyler Perry gives single mothers their due in THE SINGLE MOMS CLUB. After finding their common everyday stresses and struggles far outweigh their surface differences, a quintet of single mothers form a support group after a school incident involving their respective children forces them to work together on a project. So far, so good, for Perry’s casting of the core five is spot-on. Nia Long is her ever-grounded, ever-empathetic self; Cocoa Brown lends her trademark comic verve as well as some believable, world-weary vulnerability; Wendi McLendon-Covey amusingly plays the Type A career woman to the hilt; Amy Smart hits the right emotional notes of an overwhelmed recent divorcee; and Zulay Henao makes the most of the opportunity to more extensively show her softer and more serious sides.
The natural and lively rapport that generates from the mix of these contrasting personalities holds both comedic and dramatic promise, but it ends up staying just that–promise, for the title not only succinctly sums up the basic premise, but the totality of Perry’s development of it. Once the ladies, realizing just how much they do have in common, vow to help and support each other however they can, the whole message that single mothers, regardless of differences in background, are not alone and have a supportive sisterhood to turn to is simply parroted ad nauseum, and often quite literally in some way-too-on-the-nose dialogue. There is some variation in the women’s individual threads, which do have some charms to be savored, most notably the crackling chemistry between Brown and an ever-comically-fearless Terry Crews as the relentless suitor she constantly rebuffs; and one sharply written exchange between Smart and her new handyman neighbor (Ryan Eggold) that is double entendre gold. But the bright spots remain few when the the five actresses’ game efforts ultimately at the service of simplistic and predictable plotlines, not helped in Long’s case by the absence of chemistry with her designated love interest (not so convincingly filling the Perry-trademark idealized man role here is none other than… Perry himself), and, in the case of all five, by the obvious inexperience of the young actors playing their’ children.
Most disappointing of all, though, is that Perry definitely has a workable idea and a number of ingredients in place for a fun but grounded and mature female driven-ensemble dramedy that inspires as well as entertains. But he doesn’t take the necessary time and to fully develop the stories in a sensible nor satisfying way; much like in his last film, A MADEA CHRISTMAS, the disparate plot lines lumber and meander until, with little to no build-up, tidily tying up in a most abrupt and unconvincing fashion in literally the final couple of minutes. The famously prolific (and, given his multitude of multimedia interests, perhaps overextended) Perry has stated that will be his final feature film as a writer and director for the immediately foreseeable future, and any sort of breather from his heretofore breakneck pace is probably the much-needed remedy to renew his big screen creative wind. Grade: C
By Michael Dequina