The single mothers in “Tyler Perry’s The Single Moms Club” have it really, really hard. It’s obvious that they have it really, really hard because, in multiple scenes, all five of them talk about how hard they have it while drinking wine and not paying any attention to what their kids are doing.
That’s just how things roll in Perry’s latest, lazily scripted dramedy, which overflows with enough cliches, one-dimensional characters and laughably unrealistic plot turns to fill at least five wine glasses, non-stop, for the next six months, when another Tyler Perry movie inevitably will arrive in theaters.
The ethnically diverse group of mothers in “The Single Moms Club” first meet when a prep school principal calls them together to discuss the various unsavory sins their preteen children have recently committed on school property. Those sins include spray painting graffiti on the building and smoking cigarettes — you know, the stuff that got kids in trouble in the 1950s.
As penance for their children’s transgressions — because it’s the mothers who must be “punished” here — the women are forced to organize a school fundraiser, a planning process that devolves into drinking the aforementioned vino and unloading their problems. All that not-so-spontaneous female bonding leads to the forming of a single moms support group, which isn’t so much a support group as it is an agreement to take turns babysitting. The only reason this movie isn’t called “Tyler Perry’s The Babysitters Club” is because that title, minus Perry, was taken long ago by a series of middle-school novels that contain at least as much depth and nuance as this movie does.
Nearly every one of these female protagonists has been ripped straight out of the One-Dimensional, Second-Rate Sitcom Playbook. Esperanza (Zulay Henao) is the ridiculously gorgeous Latina who feels stifled by her ex-husband but free enough to prance around in extra-tight tops that flaunt her cleavage, Sofia Vergara-style. Jan (the ineffectively utilized Wendi McLendon-Covey) is an ambitious publishing executive who’s super-focused on her career and, therefore, required to come across as a witchy, repressed harpy.
Wealthy Hillary (Amy Smart) is a soon-to-be divorced mother of three facing the prospect of no child support, no alimony and no nanny to help her raise the children that she has ignored to a comical degree. (There’s a scene in which Hillary’s infant daughter is wailing and all this mom can do is say, “Baby, please. Stop crying.” When another mother picks up the girl to comfort her, Hillary asks incredulously, “How do you do it?”)
Lytia (Cocoa Brown) is the insultingly stereotypical sassy black woman who has two older children in jail and will slap you upside your head if you look at her sideways. And, finally, there’s May (Nia Long), a writer who is the only woman in this movie that, for a couple of seconds during an emotional scene with her son, vaguely resembles a potentially real human being.
As directed by Perry, “The Single Moms Club” goes for a mix of escapism and reality-based drama and winds up with a movie that can only be enjoyed via the running, snarky commentary that will inevitably scroll through most audience members’ heads as they watch. So help me, there is actually a moment when Hillary’s hot, strong, male next-door neighbor throws rocks at her window while she is in her bedroom reading “50 Shades of Grey” and, once again, paying no attention to the children she’s supposed to be babysitting. Women deserve to see more stories onscreen that reflect their own experiences, including the experience of nurturing the next generation. But “The Single Moms Club” is not that movie. It’s “50 Shades of Good God, Are You Kidding Me?”
Chaney is a freelance writer.
PG-13. At area theaters. Contains some sexual material and thematic elements. 111 minutes.