Few filmmakers are as critic-proof as Tyler Perry. Despite a slew of negative reviews, Perry's previous efforts, Madea's Family Reunion and Diary of a Mad Black Woman were wildly successful at the box office, dominating the competition in their opening weekends. With a gaggle of sold-out tours, bestselling books and blockbuster films, Perry is quickly approaching mogul status.
Central to Perry's popularity is the character of Madea, a spunky, straight-talking grandmother portrayed by Perry in both films and in countless stage shows throughout the country. While some folks would be a tad unnerved by the visage of a man in drag offering advice on moral issues, Madea's acerbic, no-nonsense sermons struck a chord with audiences and propelled Perry to the elite ranks of African-American entertainers.
Though Madea is nowhere to be found in Perry's latest movie, Daddy's Little Girls, there are still plenty of lessons to be learned. This time around, the moral center is occupied by Monty (Idris Elba), a hard-working mechanic and single father of three young daughters. Beset by drama on all sides, Monty tries his best to make ends meet while steadfastly refusing to compromise his integrity.
It's certainly admirable that Perry strives to present a positive image of fatherhood in the African-American community, but there's a misogynist undercurrent to Daddy's Little Girls that can't be ignored. Throughout the film, it seems that Monty is under constant assault from the various women in his life.
First, his malevolent ex-wife Jennifer (Tasha Smith) -- now shacking up with the local drug kingpin -- takes his precious daughters away from him, immediately sending the oldest one off to pedal drugs at her school.
Then there's Julia (Gabrielle Union), the snooty, high-priced lawyer assigned to Monty when he takes a second job as a chauffer. Julia is ludicrously stuck-up, constantly lamenting the lack of quality African-American men while treating our hero Monty with cartoonish disdain.
Even Monty's beloved daughters give him headaches, griping about their living conditions and grilling his new girlfriend when she stops by for dinner. It makes one wonder why he would even want custody of the girls in the first place.
Nevertheless, Monty doggedly pursues custody, and even manages to convince Julia to help him with the case. When an unexpected romance develops between them, Julia's shallow, catty and judgmental female friends are predictably disapproving, decrying Monty's working-class roots and admonishing Julia for daring to stoop so low.
Just as it seems as if Monty is finally in the clear, he runs into one more roadblock, again courtesy of the opposite sex. It turns out his record isn't as squeaky clean as he once claimed. In an event referenced in brief flashbacks throughout the movie, Monty was once wrongly accused of date rape when he was a teenager. Though he was eventually exonerated, the blemish on his record is enough to briefly derail his quest for custody. Looks like estrogen strikes again.
In the end, Monty wins back the girls, Julia sheds her icy façade, Jennifer goes to jail and everyone learns a valuable lesson. Though there are a number of commendable messages to be found in Daddy's Little Girls, most of them are ultimately drowned out by the film's most salient theme: women, apparently, are evil.
Check out reelz.com's Daddy's Little Girls page for clips from the movie and more.