Tyler Perry is an brand unto himself, as his films offer the audience an experience unlike most others on the market. Given that they are mostly centered around larger than life characters who have a habit of sticking their noses in other people’s business, Nobody’s Fool looks like a film that should continue that very tradition. Unfortunately, you can tell something is wrong when Tiffany Haddish’s usual outrageous behavior is forced to take a backseat to a more pedestrian romantic comedy, trading in both her and Perry’s usual schtick for something that wants to be rote – but ultimately it can’t even muster the effort to reach that level.
Danica (Tika Sumpter) has been in a long-distance relationship with a man that she’s never met or even seen in the year they’ve been together. Tanya (Tiffany Haddish) is Danica’s sister, who’s staying with her after just finishing a years-long prison sentence. The two siblings already have an interesting, combative relationship on a normal basis, but once Tanya finds out about Danica’s “boyfriend,” things get pretty interesting, as Tanya thinks something’s not right, and she’s got a plan on how she’s going to fix it.
A lot of attention is being put onto the fact that Nobody’s Fool is writer/director Tyler Perry’s first R-rated comedy, as well as his first film outside of his usual realm of Lionsgate. You wouldn’t know it based on the final product, though, as there are still many of the hallmarks of Perry’s previous work, for better or worse, are on full display in this romantic comedy. The only real difference is that there’s some more swearing, and the sex scenes are a little more risqué. Other than that, your enjoyment of this film depends on how keyed in you are to Perry’s sensibilities as a storyteller and filmmaker.
Speaking of story, Nobody’s Fool finds its greatest struggle in that field of play, as the over-arching narratives of Danica’s relationship history, or the relationship between her and her sister, Tanya, are never properly set up. Even as a basic romantic comedy, the film lays down the most basic of tracks for the story to run along, which only leaves Perry’s script easy to derail at a moment’s notice. An example of such derailment is in the various jokes that land at inopportune moments, belittling any sort of emotional dialogue it tries to open with its characters. Nobody’s Fool even ends properly, albeit on its second try, only to fade up from the black screen to tack on just one more gag that could have been better used as a post-credits stinger.
As a result, the pacing of Nobody’s Fool is severely off, with its main conflict coming to somewhat of a resolution halfway through the film. “Somewhat” is the key word, because as it turns out, that moment that would have served as a natural end point for said story feels like it’s only included in the film so that a major, scene stealing cameo can take place. While that cameo does lead to a good handful of laughs, it’s ultimately useless as that resolution is un-done to push the film to an almost two hour running time. By time you get to the finale, the result you’d predicted in the first act still stands true, although you might not be convinced the film has truly earned it.
The MVP of Nobody’s Fool is, without question, Tiffany Haddish, as she takes the comedic material to her usual extent of manic delight. That’s not to take away from any of the other cast members in the film, as everyone from Tika Sumpter to Whoopi Goldberg get a good laugh or two in edgewise. But the most energy is exerted by Haddish, leaving the audience to wonder why she’s not the center of the movie’s universe, if only to keep things moving and interesting.
Nobody’s Fool could have been a fun, if not standard, romantic comedy that showed off its ensemble cast to their fullest potential. But with a script that repeats lines of dialogue, and lines of plot, in its execution, it feels like it’s wasting time for no reason other than it likes to hear itself talk. If anything, the audience could use a Tonya-like figure to tell them to avoid this film. The only people Nobody’s Fool is going to fool are those that think an R-rating would improve Tyler Perry’s comedic storytelling.