"Tyler Perry's The Single Moms Club" is a sitcom masquerading as a feature film. And given Perry's snowballing small-screen presence, an eventual TV show of it would be no surprise. Too bad he didn't just spare us the awfulness of this flat and phony slices-of-life dramedy and go right to series, where half-hour bites might have helped mitigate the pain.
Perry, as writer-producer-director (and cast member) here, traffics in clunky stereotypes and a disregard for the show-don't-tell tenet of screenwriting, as he relates this tale of five diverse, beleaguered women raising kids on their own who form a support group. (The gals' alliance largely morphs into a baby-sitters club that, at one highly contrived point, goes south.)
The single ladies, whose children all go to the same equal-opportunity Atlanta prep school, include earnest journalist May (Nia Long), no-nonsense waitress Lytia (Cocoa Brown), workaholic executive Jan (Wendi McLendon-Covey), floundering divorceé Hillary (Amy Smart) and Esperanza (Zulay Henao), who may or may not work but always looks amazing.
The way Perry, who's rarely known for his subtlety, paints these eclectic women in such broad, often retrograde strokes, it's a stretch they would ever become friends, even by mainstream movie standards. Case in point: Why anyone would put up with the hateful and racist Jan, much less fix her up with a co-worker — as May does — shatters all kinds of credibility.
Except for Long, who manages to wring some emotional reality from the hackneyed script, the lead actresses simply can't get past the single notes they're given to play.
The men here don't fare much better: Eddie Cibrian is stuck with a thankless role as Esperanza's controlling ex-husband; Terry Crews goes way over the top as Lytia's athletic suitor; Perry feels like a placeholder playing May's potential love interest; and William Levy, although a hunk and a half, is stiff as Esperanza's bartender beau. Only Ryan Eggold, as Hillary's tongue-tied new neighbor, truly charms, somehow surviving an excruciating, double entendre-filled chat involving pounding and wood. Sorry, but that's what passes for humor around this club.
'Tyler Perry's The Single Moms Club'
MPAA rating: PG-13 for some sexual material and thematic elements
Running time: 1 hour, 51 minutes
Playing: In general releaseCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times