Consummate funnyman Groucho Marx is said to have observed that he didn't want to belong to any club that would have him as a member.
Moviegoers considering enrollment in "Tyler Perry's Single Moms Club" (Lionsgate) should exercise a similar, if less ironic, sense of caution.
There's an artificial air to this ensemble seriocomedy. That's primarily because the socially diverse but uniformly beleaguered women at the heart of the story come across more as serviceable types than real individuals.
They range from uptight, career-obsessed publisher Jan (Wendi McLendon-Covey) to diner waitress —and don't-mess-with-me Earth mother—Lytia (Cocoa Brown). Hovering between those two extreme poles are journalist May (Nia Long), overwhelmed suburban housewife Hillary (Amy Smart) and unemployed Esperanza (Zulay Henao), whose lack of a career makes her dependent on the largesse of her manipulative former husband, Santos (Eddie Cibrian).
The prospect of new love helps at least some of the ladies cope with such challenges as troubled kids, professional setbacks and domineering exes. May falls for theater technician T.K. (Perry), Esperanza has been cohabiting with bartender Manny (William Levy) but concealing it from Santos, while Lytia keeps rebuffing the determined advances of happy-go-lucky auto repairman Branson (Terry Crews).
In charting his central quintet's growing friendship—they eventually form the grouping of the title to offer one another support in their travails—Perry, who also wrote and directed, shows many of the negative effects of divorce.
But his script implicitly accepts Esperanza and Manny's sexual relationship. It also affirms the never-married Jan in her long-ago decision to conceive her daughter, Katie (Cassie Brennan), through artificial insemination. This is at least partially balanced, though, by Katie's outspoken objection to the fact that she will never know who her father is.
Finally, passing, almost pro-forma approval is given to homosexual acts after one character mistakenly assumes that another is a lesbian: The price of the joke is a "not that there's anything wrong with that"-style backtrack.
Given these off-kilter bedroom (and laboratory) ethics, adult viewers will have to decide whether the forced proceedings on offer are worth the effort of straining out such currently widespread but scripturally unwarranted attitudes.
The film contains misguided sexual values, a premarital situation, much adult humor and some crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.
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