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Tiffany's Cool

Tiffany Haddish
Tiffany Haddish
Paramount Pictures
 110 Minutes
Directed by: Tyler Perry
Starring: Tiffany Haddish, Tika Sumpter   
Nobody's Fool

Recently, Tyler Perry announced that his upcoming Madea movie would feature the last on-screen performance by Perry as his formidable alter ego. All is not lost for Madea fans, however, even if Perry remains true to his word. As Perry demonstrates in his latest film, Nobody’s Fool, he can simply trot out the same Madea formula without the title character. If you ever wondered what a Madea movie would look like without Madea herself in it, wonder no more, because that’s essentially what Nobody’s Fool is, for better and for worse.


Of course, Perry needed a strong comic presence to make his formula work, and Tiffany Haddish fits the bill perfectly. In Nobody’s Fool, she plays Tanya, the just-released convict sister of Danica (Tika Sumpter), a rising young marketing executive. Things are going well for Danica, or so she thinks. She’s just been assigned to head up a major campaign for a big new client, and she’s got a great boyfriend, Charlie. The only problem is that she’s never actually met Charlie, who works on an offshore oil rig and never seems to be able to Skype with Danica. Of course, after Tanya gets out of jail and their mother (Whoopi Goldberg) refuses to allow Tanya to live with her, Danica acquires an unwanted new roommate.


While Tanya may not be too wise to the ways of the rising executive class where Danica is staking her ground, she is wise to con artistry of all sorts and immediately suspects that Charlie is somewhat less than he seems. So, she calls on Nev Schulman and Max Joseph, hosts of the TV show, Catfish, to investigate the mysterious Mr. Charlie, and they soon discover that his long-distance romance may actually have originated in a trailer park outside of town rather than a distant oil rig. And, while Tanya is also trying to help Danica say goodbye, Charlie, she also wants to help her sister find Mr. Right.


In this case, the obvious candidate for Mr. Right isn’t tough to find. He’s Frank (Omari Hardwick), the owner of the coffee shop that Danica frequents. He’s a sincere, hard-working nice guy with an obvious crush on Danica (he gives her a rose and free coffee every morning). He also hires Tanya to work in his coffee shop despite the significant gaps in her resume and questionable employee skills. But he’s not the guy that Danica pictured herself being with for the rest of her life and, to boot, he’s an ex-con who’s a recovering substance abuser.


Take away the character of Tanya, and Nobody’s Fool is a lot like the melodramas that Tyler Perry produced (and usually wrote and directed, as he does here) in the earlier days of his career. These films had some rather heavy-handed messaging and stock characters. In fact, Danica's character could easily have been the villain in a movie centered on Frank, since she dumps on him as not being in her league at least three different times in the movie before coming to her senses. Such a film, even with the more likable Danica that we get in the current movie (thanks to a generally winning performance by Tika Sumpter in a challenging role), would probably have sunk like a rock because it would just be too heavy-handed and not all that funny. In other words, it would be pretty much like the peripheral plot in a Madea film involving the younger characters.


Fortunately, Perry seems to realize just how week his central storyline is (or perhaps, how big a box office attraction Tiffany Haddish currently is), and he took what in all rights should have been an extraneous character and turned her into the film’s centerpiece. In so doing, Perry appears to have given Haddish free rein to improvise dialogue (and the even freer rein associated with the movie’s R-rating), so that her scenes seem to ramble and go on while she throws out one-liner after one-liner. Many of her best comic lines can’t be repeated here, in fact, although the clip below contains one of Haddish’s somewhat less risqué riffs.


At first, Haddish’s barrage of sex-obsessed quips and jokes work, much the same as her character in Girls Trip worked. Her encounter with Nev and Max from Catfish is her best scene in the movie as she winds up turning their search for the elusive Charlie into a rather crude attempt on her part to proposition both of them. However, after a while, it becomes evident that Haddish’s routines are in a way similar to musical numbers in a film during which one character bursts into song while everyone else just stops what they’re doing. Here, the rest of the cast turns into straight men and women when Haddish launches her shtick (and sometimes not-so-straight men and women when they break character and chuckle at some of the lines). Also, because Perry has an aversion to cutting a scene short when the jokes are flying, these scenes go on far too long and distract from the central story. Of course, that means the central story is even weaker than without the distractions.


To be fair, Haddish isn’t the only gifted comic in the cast of Nobody’s Fool. Whoopi Goldberg stays more in character than might be expected and functions more like a maternal figure than sheer comic relief. However, Chris Rock appears for an inspired, unbilled cameo about halfway through the movie in one of the funniest scenes in the entire film, notable as much for the surprise of his appearance as for anything else.


Still, Haddish is asked to carry too much of the load in Nobody’s Fool. Since Girls Trip thrust Haddish into the spotlight, she has found herself in projects like this current movie and the recent Night School that seem to have been hastily rewritten and re-edited to take advantage of her comic talents. What she hasn’t found is the right starring vehicle, and Nobody’s Fool is evidence why that approach to Haddish’s presence in a film just doesn’t work. This movie would have been a mediocre romantic comedy without her; with her, it becomes a fitfully funny but ultimately unsatisfying one. Nobody’s Fool will probably work better once it arrives on home video, where viewers can fast forward through the dull parts and concentrate on Haddish’s comic moments. In the theater, however, they are stuck, so the solution is simple: don’t be a fool; instead, avoid Nobody’s Fool

In this clip, Tiffany Haddish applies for a job in Omari Hardwick's coffee shop.

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Nobody's Fool (2018) on IMDb