My admiration for Tyler Perry’s phenomenal and influential showmanship is undimmed, but facts are facts: The craft of filmmaking is not his strong suit. Perry’s movies tend to lurch from scene to scene; the visual composition is characteristically sloppy; and the storytelling, shaped by Perry’s early successes with road-show theatrical productions, is maddeningly choppy and artificially inflated by overheated dialogue.
And yet the approach works for the man — at least when he’s making a Tyler Perry Movie. For Colored Girls, however, is definitely not a Tyler Perry Movie, at least not by origin: It’s the first film adaptation of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf. A blazing choreo-poetic-theatrical creation by the New Jersey-born poet Ntozake Shange, Colored Girls rocked the American stage in the 1970s. Nearly four decades later, Perry has taken Shange’s feminist word-and-movement portraits of disenfranchised African-American women and turned those howls into…a maddeningly choppy mess of a Tyler Perry movie. Here, women (crossing paths in a faux run-down, stage-set Harlem apartment building) are in trouble or wronged or hurting, yet by God they’re strong. The female cast is great, with especially fierce performances from Loretta Devine, Kimberly Elise, Phylicia Rashad, and Anika Noni Rose. But stuck in a flailing production that might just as well invite Perry’s signature drag creation Madea to the block party, the actors’ earnest work isn’t enuf. C-