Brandy Norwood, Lance Gross, Kim Kardashian, Eric West, Jurnee Smollett, Vanessa Williams WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
Tyler Perry MPAA RATING
Rated PG-13 RUNNING TIME
111 Mins. DISTRIBUTED BY
There's a reason that Lionsgate and Perry hardly ever screen his films for critics. They don't need to do so. While critics typically ravage Perry films, the vast majority of the Atlanta-based filmmaker's films have made money and Perry's movie empire continues to grow even as he has expanded into television and continues his involvement with stage productions.
I understand why critics don't exactly embrace Perry, a filmmaker whose directorial skills may be most appropriately described as functional and whose leanings towards melodrama end up creating exactly the kinds of films that most film critics despite - melodramatic, overly broad and formulaic.
The thing is that Perry seems to have tapped almost perfectly into what his audiences want. He gives it to them and they, in return, reward him with box-office success after box-office success. Perry's films ARE often melodramatic, overly broad and frequently quite formulaic. They are also filled with messages about faith, family, self-acceptance and the importance of community. While they will be unlikely to ever work for everyone, those who seek such films have come know that Tyler Perry will deliver the goods dependably.
Now then, as a film critic and a Tyler Perry fan I've been troubled a bit more by his last couple of films. In both Madea's Witness Protection and Alex Cross, the latter not actually being a Perry film but starring Perry, Perry's acting has been suspect primarily because he's seemed remarkably detached from what's going on in the film. Up until the last year or so, I had really begun to admire Perry's growth as a filmmaker and branching out as an actor. Unfortunately, the last year has brought a couple of weak performances and with this, Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor, Perry again creates a film that says all the right things that we expect from Perry but does so in a way that feels less involving and less convicted than in the majority of his previous films.
Jurnee Smollett-Bell plays Judith, a marriage counselor recalling through flashback the tale of a woman who becomes tempted to stray from her marriage to Brice (Lance Gross) after she meets a charismatic billionaire businessman (Robbie Jones) through her work at a dating agency. Judith's co-workers, played by Vanessa Williams and Kim Kardashian (Yes, her!), are mostly here for the film's attempts at comic relief, though these attempts for the most part fall woefully short.
Temptation works best as a soap opera-style melodrama, which it really becomes in its third act. This is not saying it works well, for even as a melodrama the film has quite a few issues. However, it's the film's inconsistent tone that is the most troubling and for the most part that inconsistency disappears in the film's final act.
With the possible exception of Brice, there's really not a likable character to be found in Tyler Perry's Temptation. Oh sure, Perry wants us to appreciate Judith but it's difficult to become too sympathetic with a woman who seemingly makes bad choice after bad choice. The fact that Brice isn't exactly the most attentive husband may certainly be cause for friction in the relationship, but I'm guessing Judith's actions are a much bigger problem.
This being a Perry film, we also know that there won't be any small conflicts or simple resolutions. While examining the impact of infidelity is quite dramatic in itself, Perry tosses in the businessman's sociopathic tendencies, domestic abuse, drug abuse and a few other major life issues.
It's all a bit much.
It's not surprising that Temptation is adapted from a Perry stage play, and I'm guessing that I'd prefer to see the film onstage where its over-the-top antics and high strung antics will play out with a bit more normalcy. This isn't a horrible film, though it's one of Perry's weaker entries with unappealing characters, an uneven tone and a performance from Kim Kardashian that makes her a prime candidate for House of Wax 2.