Tyler Perry’s Daddy’s Little Girls Review
By Shawn McKenzie 02/17/2007
Atlanta car mechanic Monty James (Idris Elba) is a nice, well-respected man in his neighborhood. He works for repair shop owner Willie (Louis Gossett Jr.), and he is a divorced father of three little girls…12-year-old Sierra (Sierra Aylina McClain), 7-year-old Lauryn (Lauryn Alisa McClain), and 5-year-old China (China Anne McClain.) When he doesn’t have the girls himself, his ex-mother-in-law Katheryn (Juanita Jennings) cares for them, since their mother, Jennifer Jackson (Tasha Smith), is a junkie who lives with her drug-dealing boyfriend Joe (Gary Sturgis) and generally doesn’t care about the girls. Monty does okay, but he is not wealthy by any means. His dream is to someday own his own car repair shop. Life is derailed when Katheryn dies of lung cancer, requiring the girls to live with him in his one-bedroom apartment. To make matters worse, Jennifer has decided to go after full custody of the girls just to spite Monty (she wasn’t invited to her mother’s funeral, which she considers a personal attack.) Since he needs to hire a good lawyer to fight the custody battle, Monty takes an offer by Willie given to him by Maya (Malinda Williams), a neighbor of Monty and the personal secretary of high-priced, highly successful lawyer, Julia Rossmore (Gabrielle Union), to be Julia’s personal limo driver. Julia is demanding and uptight, and she really has no patience with people she considers “the help.” There is tension from the very beginning, and things only get worse when Monty receives a call that Sierra has accidentally caused a fire and was rushed to the hospital. The detour to the hospital causes Julia to fire Monty. A social worker (Donna Biscoe) shows up the next day and takes them away. The idiot civil court judge (Joan Pringle) then decides to give most of the custody to Jennifer and Joe with weekly visits given to Monty. Her reasoning was that Jennifer had the financial means to take care of them (though, for some reason, she didn’t bother to ask Jennifer how she came by those “means.”) While living at Jennifer and Joe’s place, Joe forces Sierra to sell marijuana at her school and by and large abuses all three of them. Jennifer finds it funny that the girls are miserable, and her advice to them is that they need to grow up and face the facts of life. Monty knows that Julia is a tough lawyer who has never lost a case, so…despite the fact that she fired him…she asks for her help. She tells him that her firm charges $500 an hour, and that there is no way that he could come up with that kind of money. She later realizes that Monty is a good man who honestly loves his daughters…which is a big change from the men that she keeps meeting on blind dates set up her friends Cynthia (Tracee Ellis Ross) and Brenda (Terri J. Vaughn.) She decides to represent him…after hours…because she feels for him and his daughters. Their professional relationship turns into a romantic one after he takes her to a jazz club to loosen her up. Her friends don’t approve of the relationship though, because he is too “common” for her. A kink in their relationship happens when Julia finds out about a criminal charge in Monty’s past, which makes her decide to have nothing to do with him. Then Monty finds out that Joe has hit China, which makes him so angry that he decides to crash his car into Jennifer and Joe’s car, and beat the crap out of Joe. The neighbors defend Monty, since they all like him and they hate Joe for terrorizing the neighborhood for years. The issue now though is how he will fight these new criminal assault charges and still fight for the custody of his daughters.
Why is it that the other so-called “critics” all hate writer/director/producer/actor Tyler Perry’s films? From 2005’s debut, Diary of a Mad Black Woman, through last year’s Madea’s Family Reunion (his directorial debut), Perry has made some entertaining films filled with messages that don’t come out as overly preachy. They have been a mixture of comedy and drama that work together well. His latest pic, Daddy’s Little Girls, is a huge departure in many ways, but it is still a movie worth seeing.
The differences between this movie and his first two movies are numerous. First…it is the first one that Perry wrote directly for the screen (the first two were film adaptations of his plays.) Second, it is the first one that doesn’t contain his cult hero Mabel “Madea” Simmons. In fact…Perry, who played Madea in drag in the previous films, doesn’t even appear in this movie at all (not even in a cameo role.) Third…this movie is probably the most dramatic of the three films. All of them mixed both drama and comedy, but I think that this movie will end up in the Drama section of your local video store once it is released on DVD (unless some foolish video store managers assume that it is a similar movie to the first two movies and put it in the Comedy section by mistake.)
Don’t get me wrong…the movie has its funny moments. The funniest parts involve Julia’s blind dates. The first one was with Byron (Craig Robinson), a 40-year-old aspiring rapper. The second one was with a good-looking lawyer named Christopher (Brian J. White), who seemed perfect…until his pregnant wife (Maria Howell) and son (Gabriel McClain, the brother of the McClain sisters) showed up in a minivan to ruin the date.
The acting from the protagonists is wonderful. Union does a good job from transforming from ice queen to sympathetic girlfriend naturally. Elba portrays a good guy who wants only the best for his little girls. He also shows his anger when they are hurt. You could almost feel for him…especially if you are a divorced dad who still loves his kids (I’m not married and I have no kids, but I felt for him.) Gossett Jr. as usual is great. Perry has said that he wants to have at least one legendary African-American actor such as Gossett Jr. in a supporting role in all of his films (like Cicely Tyson and Maya Angelou in the previous films) along with upcoming newer actors, like Elba, Smith, and Sturgis. I like that strategy myself.
The antagonists are a slightly different story though. While Smith and Sturgis are memorable…they are a little over the top. Smith’s character is so evil that she almost becomes a caricature. Sturgis is appropriately bad, but his character is a little clichéd.
Otherwise, Tyler Perry’s Daddy’s Little Girls is a very good movie. I like it about as much as Diary (Reunion was also good, but it wasn’t as good as the other two movies.) Perry’s next project is the adaptation of his stage play Why Did I Get Married? (this one won’t have the Madea character in it either, but it will have Perry taking an acting part again.) I look forward to seeing it…and I bet the other critics will hate it. While I think that it won’t top the box office this time like the first two movies did (I’m guessing Ghost Rider will win the box office), being that the budget is small, I predict that it will still be a big hit. Take that, Perry haters!
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