The more I learn about Tyler Perry and his films, the less I understand. Is the same audience showing up for his cringe-inducing, faith-based family comedies and dramas as is turning out for over-the-top sex comedies like Nobody’s Fool? It seems almost impossible to imagine, as worlds apart as these two ends of his spectrum are. The same lazy and racist tropes are present in all his films, and Nobody’s Fool trots them all out for display, but what sets the new film apart from his other recent (nonstop) output is an undeniable sense of desperation, as if Perry wasn’t fully in charge of his own material.
Normally, for better or worse, there’s a feeling that what you’re seeing is exactly what Perry intended. Not here. I showed up to find out just how badly he could mangle the performances of Tiffany Haddish and Chris Rock. He doesn’t disappoint.
Another consistent element of all Perry films is the rambling, first-draft feeling of all his scripts, which in this case is made all too glaring with a complicated subplot involving a catfishing scheme, cell reception on an oil rig, and Chris Rock in a wheelchair. The impossibly convoluted mystery at the heart of the film is so unnecessary that Perry even forgets about it completely once it’s time for the family drama to take over, only to bring it back with a twist at the last minute. But a twist is supposed to be a revealing new angle from which to view what we already knew, not a method of simply negating an hour’s worth of movie. But, oh well. Who cares, right?
But, yes, Haddish sucks here. It’s frustrating when an artist you love does work that makes you realize that maybe their critics had a point all along. I blame Perry for everything, but still, her shrill, growling and screeching performance is horrifying, not least because she agreed to do it all in the first place. Whoopi Goldberg and Rock are friends of the director and probably worked for cheap, so that’s a little easier to parse, but Haddish is still ostensibly on the rise, so it’s a bummer to see her wasting her talents for these hacks again and again.
Omari Hardwick is the only one involved with much of a character to play, but even he ends up being another of Perry’s weird MRA avatars, the chiseled nice guy with a checkered past who just can’t get women to give him a chance. Though not unheard of within the realm of romantic comedies, it’s still a bizarre conceit, and it’s one that Perry returns to again and again throughout his films.
The thing that I’ll take to my grave, however, that’ll be permanently imprinted onto my brain, is that sex scene. It comes out of nowhere, goes on way too long and stops just short of turning into hardcore porn (several times). This is right after Chris Rock gets his hair set on fire and has to put it out in a kiddie pool. So, again, who is Perry making these films for? I doubt he even knows anymore. He’s now threatening to kill off Medea, so that’ll be something, huh? Sure. That’ll be something.