If you're expecting Daddy's Little Girls, the latest film from writer-director Tyler Perry, to be a broad comedy like Diary of a Mad Black Woman or Madea's Family Reunion, you're in for a big surprise. Perry doesn't get into drag and play Madea in this movie -- in fact, he doesn't appear onscreen at all (unless he had an uncredited cameo where I didn't recognize him). Don't let the brightly colored poster with the cute little girls on it fool you -- this isn't a comedy, either, but is meant to be a drama with a message. Daddy's Little Girls has its funny moments, but overall it's fairly somber from the start. Monty (Idris Elba) is a mechanic who wants to buy the auto shop where he works from soon-to-retire Willie (Louis Gossett, Jr.). His three daughters are primarily cared for by his mother-in-law, who implores him to take over custody so the girls won't fall into the hands of their neglectful mom, Jenny (Tasha Smith), who is living with the neighborhood druglord. The mother-in-law dies from lung cancer early in the film, and Jenny, who hates Monty, takes him to court to gain full custody of her kids just out of spite.

To earn money for a lawyer, Monty is forced to moonlight as a driver for the high-powered and self-centered lawyer Julia (Gabrielle Union), but she fires him after he detours a trip to handle an emergency with his kids. Meanwhile, her friends insist that Julia has to find herself a man, and so she suffers through humiliating (yet comic) blind dates in search of Mr. Right. He needs a good lawyer, she needs a good man ... you get the picture. Daddy's Little Girls never goes for the subtle when it can resort to the obvious. The "bad guys" of the movie are one-dimensional: we don't empathize with ex-wife Jenny in any way, and the film works hard to make her awful in every way. She smokes, she and her boyfriend try to make her oldest daughter sell drugs, and she laughs at the kids when they watch drug-dealing thugs beat up someone. Monty, on the other hand, is shown as almost saintly: he goes to church, he's polite and friendly with all his neighbors, and he truly loves his little girls.