So Much for Happily Ever After for Urban FaithTyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married Too?, the sequel to Perry’s 2007 hit film about the ups and downs of four African American couples, spends more time down than up. In fact, it leaves you wondering why did they get married?

We are thirsty for black love stories in Hollywood. Through the decades we’ve had films about “jonesing” for the opposite sex, getting our groove back, and even expanding our options interracially by trying something new. However, the quantity of films about relationships has not served to round out the romance genre for the black community. There is still a shortage in the canon about love — the kind where black men and women settle into life-long marriages to build happy, healthy families.

So when Tyler Perry released the first Why Did I Get Married? film in 2007 there was a collective sigh of relief to see black love 20-feet tall on the big screen. The film felt important; it wasn’t just weekend entertainment. And now with the sequel, Why Did I Get Married Too? (PG-13), which hits theaters today, again we have some small expectation of an education. We want Tyler Perry to teach us that the statistics chronicling the unlikelihood of marriage among African Americans don’t have to be true.

“So many young people have no idea what it means to take another individual into their space as a spouse,” remarked legendary actress Cicely Tyson who appears in the sequel as Ola. “They don’t believe in it because they don’t understand it. It’s important for them to know that once you make the decision to take another person into your space, you have given up a certain freedom to be dishonest and distrustful. This movie points out all the negatives and the positives of marriage so that you get to understand what you’re in for when you take that oath. Because of this I think it’s one of the most important films that Tyler’s done to date.” Tyson spoke at a press conference last week along with Perry and the rest of the cast.

Starring Perry, Janet Jackson, Malik Yoba, Jill Scott, and many others, the Why Did I Get Married? films follow the lives of four couples battling the ups and downs of marriage. And while the first film was hilarious and complex, showing Perry had finally matured beyond the slapstick humor of the Madea franchise that’s brought most of his success, unfortunately Why Did I Get Married Too? is nothing like it. If the first movie was Palm Sunday, ushering in a new storyline of love and redemption, the sequel is Good Friday — dark, hopeless, and a bit depressing.

Maybe it’s the lack of spiritual content, noticeably absent considering Perry’s oft-criticized habit of integrating religion, or maybe it’s the gradual unraveling of each marriage. But frankly, I left the theater needing a hug. Raw, honest and startlingly sad, Why Did I Get Married Too? is like an object lesson on the why and how of a marriage’s destruction.

With each couple, the seeds of dissension sewn in the first film have grown. Patricia (Janet Jackson) and Gavin’s (Malik Yoba) grief over their son’s death has further fractured the relationship. Their turbulent story, at times shockingly violent onscreen, draws standout performances from both Yoba and Jackson. While we give kudos to Yoba for his willingness to be vulnerable, Jackson’s intensity is tough to watch, especially knowing the icon was suffering from the real-life loss of her brother Michael Jackson at the time of filming. The generally stable relationship between Terry (Tyler Perry) and Dianne (Sharon Leal) is now rocky as a result of a mysterious preoccupation at work. Sheila (Jill Scott) has indeed left abusive husband Mike (Richard T. Jones) behind for new hubby Troy (Lamann Rucker). However, the saintly character we saw praying in the first film has become a sharp-tongued spouse caught between her new man and invitations from the ex. Even the comedic-relief of Angela (Tasha Smith) and Marcus (Michael Jai White) are a drag, constantly tearing at each other’s throats over the threat of infidelity. Yet this time, Angela’s brash character is almost too overwhelming for the audience to swallow.

Ultimately the movie is too much, and then it ends leaving a trail of broken relationships hurriedly band-aided together by an awkward moment of resolution you have to see to believe. And while my criticism of Perry’s films has often been their trite inspiration and lack of realism, don’t quote me but I’ll admit I craved a dose of the old Perry while watching the credits roll on his latest film. Where is the hope he always brings? I just couldn’t help feeling that, before we tackle the destruction of black marriages, we must first establish that black men and women can indeed live in healthy relationships.

There is more to this story, and I hope Perry has plans to tell the other side. Because if this is all there is to marriage, why get married at all? At the press conference, Perry noted that with the exception of a few cast members like Richard T. Jones and Cicely Tyson, “Everybody else is single or divorced.” He laughed, shook his head, and said, “Yeah … we’re the group to ask.”

Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married Too? is rated PG-13 and opens today. Are you planning to see the film? Have you seen it yet? Let us know what you think!

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