"Married" offers a positive, if melodramatically heightened, portrait of upper-middle-class African-American life.
Extending the self-help-by-example strategy of the original, “Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married Too?” reassembles the four couples featured in the multi-talent’s 2008 couples-retreat dramedy and furnishes them with a fresh set of problems to work through. If some couples go to the movies to escape the arguments and stress of everyday life, Perry’s aud attends hoping to catch a glimpse of themselves amid all that catfighting and catharsis. “Married” offers a positive, if melodramatically heightened, portrait of upper-middle-class African-American life, one broadly appealing enough to satisfy even the Nancy Meyers set, if only they’d give it a chance.Since the original centered around liberating Sheila (Jill Scott) from her abusive marriage, it figures that this follow-up would include not only her sensitive new beau, Troy (Lamman Rucker), but also a surprise appearance from her trouble-making ex-husband (Richard T. Jones), just in time to spark the fireworks show that follows. But no marriage is perfect, and a week of couples therapy in the Caribbean reveals the cracks in everyone’s relationships soon enough. Terry (Perry) and Dianne (Sharon Leal) are still the mellowest of the bunch, but there’s something more than work on her mind these days. And rather than dispense advice, psychologist Patricia (Janet Jackson) might do well to examine her own rocky relationship with Gavin (Malik Yoba) more closely. The scene-stealers remain harpy Angela (Tasha Smith) and henpecked Marcus (Michael Jai White), whose constant squabbling has reached a histrionic high. If there’s a unifying philosophy here, it’s the idea that circumstances may change, but people don’t. Angela’s not about to stop verbally abusing Marcus just because he landed a job on a high-profile sports talkshow, and considering his past philandering, her demands for his cell-phone password don’t seem entirely unreasonable. Their colorful arguments drive the first half of the movie on the island, where cameos from Louis Gossett Jr. and Cicely Tyson give Perry a chance to articulate eloquently another generation’s views on love. But a week’s vacation in the Bahamas doesn’t have the same restorative effect the characters’ earlier Colorado trip did, and they all return to Atlanta with more baggage than they brought. The shadow of divorce looms over all four couples, with Gavin and Patricia actually attempting to go through with it — giving an off-the-handle Jackson a chance to unleash all that emotion stored up over two movies. Pic plays like an extended sitcom, abruptly truncated when the unusually harsh resolution to one conflict forces all the other couples to kiss and make up. Perry introduces a surprise character in the last minute of the film, which suggests more episodes to follow. Like last year’s “Obsessed,” “Married” matter-of-factly presents well-to-do black couples coping with everyday challenges, offering an alternative to pics like “Precious” while still oversimplifying the African-American experience. The characters’ jobs — which include doctor, lawyer, TV personality and author — are the sort to which grade-school kids aspire, rather than the professions of many real-world grown-ups, and yet, there’s a positive message in that choice. “Married” is the sort of film intended to lead by example, presenting situations and anecdotes auds can refer back to later. Perry is a confident enough storyteller that these modern-day parables weave seamlessly into a cohesive narrative, though small clues (including a shoutout to Joe Kelly’s self-empowering picture book “Douglas Fredericks and the House of They”) suggest his underlying moral voice, recapped over the end credits by Jackson’s song “Nowhere.”