Tyler Perry's latest movie, Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor is complete and utter foolishness. Yeah, I said it.
Yes, coming from the woman who flew 800km to Chicago to see one of Tyler Perry's Madea plays live. Yes, coming from the woman who has had nothing but extreme praise and respect for this man, and the empire he has created for himself. Yes, I'm a Tyler Perry fan and email subscriber and devoted audience member...and yet I thought his latest movie Temptation (released on Friday) was a joke.
Temptation is a movie about a Christian girl named Judith (remember Jurnee Smollett-Bell, little Michelle Tanner's friend on Full House?), who marries her childhood sweetheart Brice (played by heart-throb Lance Gross), yet finds herself in her mid-twenties under appreciated by her husband, unsatisfied with her job, and ridiculed by her ever-hot co-worker Ava (Kim Kardashian) about her selection in clothing and shoes.
We've seen this story a million times before, like in The Devil Wears Prada, where we get to watch a young awkward girl quickly rise from frumpiness to fashion glory and suddenly acquire thousands of dollars of clothing and designer handbags.
Fun to watch. I enjoyed seeing Kim Kardashian in her film debut, and even though she at times is equally as corny, at least her character kinda rang true to the type of person she is, and the type of person that would work in the company portrayed. Surprisingly, she MAY have been the best part of the movie...the only part that didn't disappoint.
So it started out cool...I knew the "temptation" was coming...just didn't know from where. So when the sexy billionaire Harley (Robbie Jones) seduces poor innocent Judith...the movie gets interesting. He tells her what she wants to hear. He's nice to look at, and it's interesting to see her make the transformation from the quiet counsellor to the vixen.
But the movie got real lame, real quick. Judith not only cheats on her husband Brice, but she also turns into a fashionista, a bitch, alcoholic, and a coke head (although we never actually "SEE" the cocaine, just the aftermath obligatory sniffling)...and I'm like...huh? When? Why? Like the plot moved too quickly, too dramatically, and it took a nice paced sexy movie...into a ridiculous basic-ass story.
The characters changed personalities without much explanation or justification. The reactions were over the top, the dialogue was cheesy, and it just seemed too much like a "Look everyone! I'm-making-a-dramatic-gritty-movie-about-infidelity" move from Tyler Perry. And as for the sex...it's just "assumed" with the the odd silhouette-through-the-steam and panting-faces-from-the-shoulders-up mini-scenes. G-rated, across the board.
Now putting this into context, I fully fully realize that Tyler Perry is a Christian. It is evident in everything he produces. And as I write this, it's Easter Sunday, so who am I to disrespect his message from the Lord, and his life long mission to educate and inspire his people through creative storytelling, humour, and now...101 films.
Tyler Perry is a smart man. He's richer than practically every other dude in Hollywood, he's hob-nobbing with Oprah and Mandela and the likes, he's a studio owner, and he's probably going to be around for a while. But there was a part of me that was like...ugh, just stick to Madea. Like stick to what you KNOW!
He knew Madea's world inside and out. Intimately. That African-American country life, humour, and really personal details and phrases that made Mrs. Simmons the superstar that she is. Madea was and still is a major deal for Mr. Perry. His gold mine. Madea could be ghetto, and corny, and hilarious, and preachy, and the movie could contain all of those elements and it would be OK...in THAT context.
Even when he stepped a bit away from Madea and made some other movies like For Colored Girls, The Family That Preys, and Diary of a Mad Black Woman...there was still a level of Tyler Perry-ness that was acceptable, because he was still building his brand and getting out there in the public eye. Most people knew what they were getting into with him, and just took it for what it was.
But now...he's gone too far. He's got too much money, and too much power, and too much access, and I think he believes he can do anything well as a result. He tried Alex Cross, and within like 20 minutes I was like....uhuh. I am not watching this mockery of a dramatic action movie.
Like, I can see him transitioning into a filmmaker extraordinaire...but I feel like he's moving too far out of his lane, and it's to a point where it's almost making him look WORSE in my eyes, than better.
AGAIN, not to disrespect a black man working hard, making millions, and preaching positive messages. All the power to him.
But I just can't pretend that these movies are actually good! They have all the star power in the world, and the right look and feel to them, but there's this underlying feeling of 100% cornball that is just disappointing me on the highest level.
It's almost like when Janet hooked up with The Rock at the end of Why Did I Get Married Too, and the entire theatre burst into laughter like "getthatbullshitouttahere" (said in my Jack Armstrong Raptors reporter voice). And speaking of our beloved Toronto Raptors...Tyler Perry has the same kinda reputation now...everything goes well in the first half of the movie...the third quarter gets a bit iffy, and then right in the clutch...major fail. MAJOR fail, and a loss. Nothing else matters...it's the ending that counts.
OK, so the movie Temptation gets juicy, and then it gets incredibly wack. Over the top antics, and we were literally like predicting how it was going to end. "Don't tell me Brandy's ex is HARLEY!"...gag. Oh no, "Watch, he's gonna start beating her!"...cheese. And then bring in her mother and the prayer circle and the end-of-the-movie-intervention, and then she catches HIV from her affair (again, we called it!) and the movie ends with her husband moving on, she has to live with this terrible disease...and who knows where Harley magically disappeared to, after being beaten by Brice (with access to millions of dollars who could have easily had them all disappear).
Like just real improbable corny ass shit. And then Judith walks off into the sunset while the credits roll, with a HIV-induced limp? We're like, you mean the HIV is making her walk funny? Too dramatic and stupid.
You know what it felt like? Like a parent or elder trying to teach you a lesson. Sitting you down to watch a movie to scare you into doing the right thing. It felt so preachy, and so condescending that Tyler Perry actually thought someone was getting redemption by giving the woman HIV, having her husband move on, and having that poor innocent main character have to suffer a tragic illness as a result of a mistake.
Newsflash: infidelity doesn't always go down like that. While in a perfect world I'm sure many WISH that everyone would "get what they deserve" and suffer immense consequences as a result. But in reality...I'm sure that it's not nearly as neat and tidy as that.
As a hardcore small-town Christian couple, why didn't the movie highlight an element of discussion, of couple's therapy, of prayer, of understanding, or of conversation at the very least? A fist fight, a screaming battle, some tears, and broken glass...and then an ending of "payback, bitches!" is the best Tyler Perry could do?
In reality, a couple would go through MANY MANY ups and downs, and have to figure them out. This movie didn't give this couple a chance. As a Christian couple who were best friends from the age of 6, SURELY there was a level of understanding, remorse, sadness, and trust issues they could have worked through.
Just so unrealistic, and again, I'm disappointed that Tyler Perry really thinks that this is going over on any sensible audience. Fans or not...there was this Disney Channel-esque summary of emotions and resolutions that just doesn't sit well with me as an adult.
It's almost like Tyler Perry is really in touch with the Madea element of life...jokes, and church hymns, and light hearted plots. But he obviously has noooooooooooooooo idea about another side of reality. Only caricatures. There is an extreme disconnect in how he presents real life at times.
Sometimes he's hit the conversations and dynamics dead on; Why Did I Get Married and Daddy's Little Girls were really great in many ways. Don't get me wrong....sometimes he is really on point.
Great performances from Lance Gross, Brandy Norwood, and Vanessa Williams, and it was beautifully shot, and yada yada yada. All of the "elements" were there...but the plot was soooo basic, that even the hot bodies and celebrities couldn't save this film.
Tyler Perry: I see your heart. I see you are coming from a good place and a solid Christian faith, and a spirit of helping others, and teaching through example. I'm sure there are many people out there who think this film is brilliant and inspiring, and teaches a great lesson.
Buuuuut I really and truly am not buying what he's selling. Fantasy, reality...the movie was just corny. You don't need a realistic plot to make a movie sell, but you do need a level of respect for the audience, and I feel this movie really told the audience that he thinks that this will really encourage people to "do the right thing" or suffer/aka burn in hell!
He needs a reality check. Someone close to him needs to let him know that he needs to revisit his writing techniques, and take it to another level...because this level is making me feel like a fool, and making me feel like Tyler Perry is more about knocking out money-making blockbusters month after month, when he should really be developing his plots and characters on a level far beyond what Madea could ever bring.
His audience is extremely loyal. But they are also growing...in age, and intellect. Mr. Perry needs to grow with us, or be prepared to face ridicule and criticism, and subsequently fall from the level of movie-making grace that he has been so fortunate to be at the top of for many years.
I wish him growth...and I wish for you to NOT watch this movie. Save yourself the disappointment, folks. Even Madea would have to buss two shots in annoyance.
Written by Stacey Marie Robinson for Kya Publishing's "Urban Toronto Tales" blog.