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Finally, Madea goes on vacation and we get to see what kind of work Tyler Perry does when he stays behind the scenes. The results are magical, as depicted in his latest film, “Daddy’s Little Girls.” The story follows Monty (Idris Elba), a single father trying to make a life for himself and his three little girls. The trailers would have you believe that this is the love story of Monty the mechanic and Julia the jaded lawyer (Gabrielle Union) and their struggle to connect because of his sharp-tongued daughters, but the movie is so much smarter than that and sustains itself on a much less hackneyed plot.

Monty is a real black man, one who struggles between providing for his children and being successful, and like most single parents he makes sacrifices for their benefit. This scenario rarely plays out in black films, but Perry sees fit to show the world a single black father wanting to provide for his children not out of obligation but out of love. Love isn’t the only thing that drives Monty, faith gives him a good revving-up as well.

When custody of his daughters is granted to his incapable ex-girlfriend whose boyfriend is the drug lord of their neighborhood, Monty turns to faith instead of fisticuffs—for most of the movie at least, Perry likes revenge too. The picture of faith, as painted appropriately by Perry, occurs in a quasi-storefront church led by none other than real-life Atlanta mega-preacher, Bishop Eddie Long. Not to be overlooked in his film debut, Bishop Long brings a word so powerful that I had to write it down in the middle of the movie. Like clockwork, after a sermon, a soul-stirring gospel song and a pat on the back—by Louis Gossett Jr., no less–Monty is able to keep it moving and fight for those cute kids.

What was even more refreshing about this film is that, though Madea is missing and Perry didn’t find a way to squeeze himself in for self-aggrandizement’s sake, he stuck with the other third of his formula: applying faith-based principles for ordinary-people consumption. Faith in action was witnessed less the falling out and multiple church scenes where crackheads bust through the doors and belt to the high heavens–see “Diary of a Mad Black Woman.” This time around, it was a palatable version of “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”

“Daddy’s Little Girls” is quite possibly the best Tyler Perry movie to date and true evidence that he has entered the big leagues–and that the best is yet to come.

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