Atlanta director Tyler Perry may want to summon his inner cast iron skillet-clutching Madea to take on the haters as the first show business trade paper film reviews of “For Colored Girls” roll out this week.
Let’s get the most scathing review out of the way first. Of Perry’s adaptation of the 1970s theater classic, Hollywood Reporter film critic Kirk Honeycutt writes: “The Bottom Line: Tyler Perry utterly butchers Ntozake Shange‘s theatrical tone poem to black female identity.”
In case you were unclear about Honeycutt’s sentiment on the picture, he adds: “For once, Tyler Perry doesn’t his put his name above the title, but perhaps he should with ‘For Colored Girls’ to distinguish this train wreck of a movie from the stunning theater piece of 36 years ago by Ntozake Shange.”
Forecasts Honeycutt: “‘Girls’ certainly will turn off those who know Shange’s play, but what will Perry’s usual audience make of his foray into date rape, domestic violence, homosexuality, back-room abortion and promiscuity? One should never gainsay Perry’s ability to attract large opening-weekend crowds but word-of-mouth could be toxic.”
To be sure, this was not the kind of review Lionsgate was hoping for when they pushed up the release of the film from MLK Weekend 2011 to November 5 to serve as a potential Oscar contender.
Variety, meanwhile, is slightly kinder to Perry and his all-star cast, including Whoopi Goldberg, Janet Jackson, Loretta Devine, Kimberly Elise, Thandie Newton, Phylicia Rashad, Anika Noni Rose, Tessa Thompson and Macy Gray.
“There’s some great acting being done here,” writes Variety critic Peter Debruge. “But the cameras aren’t where they need to be to capture it, and the editing isn’t properly calibrated to shape what the performers are dishing out. Even the poetry feels flat, delivered in a lower key than the dialogue Perry penned himself. . .While Perry’s craft has slowly but surely improved with each successive film (this is his 10th), this latest project seems to fall beyond his reach.”
The mere fact that “For Colored Girls” is being screened at all for critics is a major departure for Perry, who once told us he didn’t feel that financing advance screenings for critics who largely hated what he did was a positive investment of time or money.
This time around, Lionsgate, perhaps greedy for little golden guys, has outranked Perry on this policy.
Next week, Intel will report our findings and reaction from an advance screening of the film set for Atlanta on Tuesday.