Not Easily Broken is a marriage-in-crisis melodrama baked from the Tyler Perry recipe.
Take a good-looking, mostly African-American cast, put them in an affluent setting, paint the characters in broad symbolic strokes, place the marriage in jeopardy, add a little Take it to the Lord in prayer sermonizing and you ve got a movie.
Brian Bird s script, taken from T.D. Jakes novel, has something to say about marriage, manhood, and even race. But did somebody actually pay Bird for typing the phrase On up in here in every page of the script, or I got this, or the hoariest African-American screen cliche of all, the best friend who starts every sentence with Giiiiiiiiiirl ? The groaning triviality of the dialogue works against the cast and director Bill Duke, as does the sermonizing voice-over narration by the lead, Morris Chestnut.
Chestnut plays Dave, a onetime aspiring ballplayer who blew out his knee and now runs a small home-improvement business. His wife, Clarice (Taraji P. Henson of Talk to Me and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) is the main bread-winner, a high-end real-estate broker who has them living beyond their means. Dave narrates his problems and his philosophy of life onto the soundtrack.
The world took away a man s reasons for being a man, he gripes. Church is like a hospital. It s where sick people go to get well.
Clarice doles out petty humiliations to Dave in front of her clients, and then turns bitter after a crippling car accident. Jenifer Lewis plays the shrewish mother-in-law who moves in with them, doubling the nagging. Meanwhile, Dave hangs with his boys both his pals (Kevin Hart plays the funny one) and young underprivileged baseball players he coaches. He takes an interest in one kid s mom (Mauve Quinlan). Niecy Nash is here to blurt out Giiiiiirlll and Don t make me go all Oprah on you or Don t go all Waiting to Exhale on me.
And the regal Albert Hall (Apocalypse Now) is the bishop who keeps reminding the struggling couple of their marriage vows, the cord with three strands religious metaphor that will make it all better.
It s not a terrible movie, just a pandering one, a film that you re sure you ve seen before. Many times. Maybe we all should take some comfort from the fact that Hollywood studios are no longer copying generic rapper thrillers set in the hood. But where s the ambition in warming over a Madea sermon without Madea?
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