Daddy's Little Girls
Actor/writer/director Tyler Perry has a very loyal following, but he might not win any converts with this slightly new direction.
Daddy's Little Girls is a more serious tome than Perry's other films, but it still goes for some cheap laughs when it's convenient, even without the Madea character. Divorced single dad Monty (Idris Elba), a mechanic who dreams of owning his own shop, is good with his three daughters, tending to their needs as best he can. Monty also has a second job, driving uber-attorney Julia Rossmore (Gabrielle Union) around, but he loses that job when he handles a family matter on her time. Monty's life changes, however, when the girls' grandma dies, and their troubled mother Jennifer (Tasha Smith) storms back into their lives with the means to take legal custody. With nowhere else to turn, he goes to Julia for help, and she realizes he is not the low-life baby daddy she thought he was. They form a bond, and although the romance has obstacles, they manage to overcome their differences.
Elba (HBO's The Wire) is a real discovery. As a likeable everyman struggling to get by in a bad situation, he doesn't play Monty for pity. Instead, he projects integrity and nobility with moderate doses of humor and anger when appropriate and is the only character in the film who has any amount of measure. As the greedy mom, Smith (ATL) is also quite good--almost scary crazy, showing just how unstable and unhinged her character can get. But unfortunately, Union is just doing her uptight Deliver Us From Eva character again--to the extreme. Her jittery stress is just uncomfortable to watch. It's likely she was asked to dial it up for some attempts at comedy but the performance seems forced overall. Also phoning it in are Tracee Ellis Ross and Terri J. Vaughn as Julia's friends, the ultimate shallow stereotypes. They hook Julia up with total losers with no money, who cheat on their families, but they have issues with a mechanic who's up front about his kids? It doesn't make sense and hard to believe an educated lawyer would take advice from these two.
There is nothing as broadly comic as the director himself in drag, but Daddy's Little Girls tries to match Tyler Perry's other films in tone. Unfortunately, Perrywho stays behind the camera this timeswitches the mood from comedy to ultra-serious in a jarring manner. Storytelling is supposed to guide you. There should be a flow, not just dramatic conflicts so melodramatic, it's beyond soap opera, or comedy so clichéd and unsophisticated, it's painful to watch sometimes. Take one of Julia's bad blind dates, for example. He wants her to pay, he raps, he screams in an elegant restaurant, he thinks filet mignon is fish, and then he orders scrimps. That's supposed to be one of the funnier scenes. Perry even inserts a random church sermon, to appeal to his core audience. Ultimately, you end up really missing that sharp-tongued, bullying old black woman.
Hollywood.com rated this film 2 stars.