Why Did I Get Married?

“Why Did I Get Married?” is a simple, feeble-minded film with a high-school-level screenplay. Where good writers subtly introduce us to the facts about their characters, Tyler Perry just has them flat-out announce things with phony expository dialogue like this:

“I am a pediatrician!”

“You and your control issues!”

“You wasn’t saying that [complaining about my not having a job] when I was playing pro ball, before I got hurt!”

“You’re the same pain in the butt you were when we were roommates!”

“You could lose about 50 pounds. Then I might be somewhat attracted to you.”

In some cases, we’re already aware of these things even without the characters declaring them. We know, for example, that Mike (Richard T. Jones) no longer loves his wife, Sheila (Jill Scott), and that it’s because she’s overweight. Did he need to actually come out and tell her that? Nope. But it does make him look like a particularly eee-vil villain, so it serves the movie’s purpose in that regard.

In other cases, better writing would present the information in a much less obvious fashion. If a character has control issues, for instance, it’s generally better to let us see him behave controllingly, rather than to have his wife announce, “You and your control issues!” I mean, how stupid do you think we are?

Based on another one of Perry’s seemingly endless pile of stage plays, “Why Did I Get Married?” is about four affluent couples who once a year take a week-long retreat to focus on their unions and try to strengthen their relationships. One of the women, a psychologist named Patricia (Janet Jackson), has written a bestselling self-help book about it. At a college lecture, a student who has read the book asks for follow-up info on one of the couples, and Patricia says, “I don’t really like to talk about my friends….” Which is stupid, since she wrote a book about them.

Anyway, this year’s retreat is in the mountains of Colorado. In a chain of events so improbable as to derail the film before it’s even gotten start, Sheila is kicked off the plane for being too fat, and her husband Mike stays onboard, telling her to drive to Colorado instead. On the plane with him is Trina (Denise Boutte), Sheila’s slim and gorgeous friend whom Mike is obviously — OBVIOUSLY!! — sleeping with. Absurdly, Trina, a single woman whom no one else has met, is joining Sheila and Mike and the three other couples on this couples-only retreat designed to strengthen the couples’ relationships. I know that men cheat, and I know that women are often oblivious to it, and I know that men do dumb things sometimes, but COME ON. Not a bit of this makes any sense.

Patricia the smug psychologist has a smug, ascot-wearing husband named Gavin (Malik Yoba), and their pain is that their child died not too long ago. Terry (Tyler Perry) and Diane (Sharon Leal), the pediatrician and his lawyer wife, are at odds because she’s too busy to spend time with him, and also because he wants another kid and she doesn’t. Marcus (Michael Jai White) and Angela (Tasha Smith), a cheater and an alcoholic, respectively, pretty much just scream at each other all the time.

The first half of the film has the four couples, plus the mistress, plus the rugged local sheriff (Lamman Rucker), spending time at the cabin and eventually shouting out one another’s secrets. The second half is back in whatever city they all live in, where we bounce from one couple to another as they work through the aftermath and resolve their differences one way or the other.

Like all of Perry’s films (“Diary of a Mad Black Woman,” “Madea’s Family Reunion,” and presumably “Daddy’s Little Girls,” though I haven’t seen it), “Why Did I Get Married?” is blunt and ungraceful in the way it presents its messages. The morals and platitudes, enacted by one-note characters without substance, are spelled out like the slogans on a church’s marquee.

Speaking of which, while black Christian women are Perry’s most faithful audience, and while there is consistently a Christian undertone in his work, the religious elements in this film are uncomfortably wedged in with just a few lines of dialogue. It’s almost as if Perry wrote the story, realized he’d forgotten to pay lip service to Jesus, then went back to add a few sentences as an afterthought. It feels artificial, and not the same kind of morality-play-artificial as the rest of the movie.

D (1 hr., 53 min.; PG-13, some mild profanity, some mild sexual references and adult themes.)