Sunday, March 31, 2013

Tyler Perry & His Movie "Temptation" Are Super Corny

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).

Again...huh?

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.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Kevin Hart & The Wayans Bringing Funny Back to Television

I mentioned it back in July 2009 after checking out a comedy show from Toronto's own Trixx, and again in November 2009 with the renaissance of Twitter humour with Affion Crockett, Nile Evans, Craig Wayans, Damian Dante Wayans, Marlon Wayans, Damon Wayans Jr., DeRay Davis, and a few others in their circle of funny men. I was laughing that year...a lot, thanks to them.

Kevin Hart was on SNL this past weekend, the Wayans family were on Oprah and it reminded me that I MISS LAUGHTER! Good old-fashioned sitting in front of the TV and actually laughing out loud. Sometimes years go by and there's no one hot out there, no one doing anything overtly hilarious. And then every now and then there's a wave of comedic genius back in the air, and it's stand-up time again. This is one of those times.
Who doesn't love comedy? It's a beautiful thing when it's done correctly. I remember the first time I laughed so hard until I cried and couldn't breathe...watching Eddie Murphy "Delirious" with my dad and sister. I was probably about 10 years old and nearly dead at the ice cream jokes and other classic tales that most of us can probably quote word for word. There was nothing greater.

The next wave of comedy probably came with the Wayans and In Living Color. And let's not forget Martin Lawrence. While The Cosby Show made us laugh...the Wayans and Martin took it to another level...it was a different kind of laughter.

Then there was Def Comedy Jam, and guys like Chris Tucker, and Chris Rock. OMG, Chris Rock used to make me BAWL with laughter, I loved that guy. Still do. I remember the late 90's and early 2000's having a bit of a comedy lull in that regard, although I did really enjoy the Original Kings of Comedy with Cedric the Entertainer, Bernie Mac, Steve Harvey, and D.L. Hughley.

Then comedy got almost too common? BET had their nightly Comic View television program that started out super hilarious...but then almost ended up giving me joke overload. Shit just was so funny that it wasn't funny anymore. At all.

And then there was Dave Chappelle. God bless him, that man to me is always going to be one of the greatest. I had the pleasure of seeing him live in Toronto at Massey Hall just at the height of his career and beginning of his vanishing in 2006. Hilarious.

Again...left me with a void when he left the public eye. Yes, there were funnymen around...but no one was really like the "it guy" of comedy.

Don't get me wrong, there's always Saturday Night Live (one of my all-time favourite shows) with Andy Samberg and Jason Sudekis and long list of jokers that emerged from that show. And I LOVE the brilliance of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, their spin off shows, and movies, and other gems that popped up in the interim...but there wasn't that "someone."

It took this long for me to really laugh again at a public figure, and Kevin Hart is the man that made it happen. He's the one that brought funny back to me, and I can't get enough of him.

Started with a few standup movies, and then I saw him live last summer in Toronto and fell in love with this guy's antics. Access to his YouTube channel and other random appearances on television shows, the movie Think Like A Man, and of course the hilarious NBA All-Star apperances. What's not to love?!

Kevin Hart is only 32, born and raised in Philadelphia, and has had a career that's now spanned over a decade with movie roles in Soul Plane in 2004, 40 Year Old Virgin in 2005, and recent television appearances like 2011 in Modern Family.

His own show The Real Husbands of Hollywood debuted on BET this year, and is doing well so far. It's FULL of stars, but still has the authentic Kevin edge and humour to it...and it's freakin hilarious. So it's been on for a few weeks now and I had to think back...when was the last time there was a GREAT comedy line up on TV? A show that I actually made an effort to tune into regularly, and watch it, and laugh, and enjoy it? It's been a minute!

I love that BET is establishing their Tuesday night lineup, including Second Generation Wayans featuring Craig, his cousin Damien Dante, and others. I love that this family continues to stay in the media spotlight, and think they're a brilliant example of a strong show business family that was able to stay relevant through films, appearances, television, and raise a stable group of young entertainers to carry on the family's tradition.

This weekend just reminded me of where comedy is right now...and I believe it's coming back. I think the days of reality television are finally coming to an end, and writers are being forced to be extra-creative, cutting edge, and staying ahead of their audiences. We're so used to being over-saturated with access to people's real life drama, and subsequently disappointed by the reality of many "stars"...I think the viewing public is ready for good solid talent, solid writing, and a new era of what we consider to be entertaining.

Kevin's apperance on Saturday Night Light this past weekend was great (not as funny as I think it COULD have been, but that's probably more about the SNL writers and less about Kevin himself). But either way, it was just a real peak for him, I think, solidifying him as a superstar comedian. He's made his mark. This is his moment in time, and I love to see him gaining popularity and recognition for his talent.

His tour movie "Let Me Explain" will be in theatres this July. Can't wait.

Then seeing Oprah's Next Chapter on Sunday night with the Wayans family brought another sense of pride and happiness to me. There was Keenan, and Kim, Marlon (I have LOVED this man from the beginning of TIME!) and Shawn, and they were still charming. Still tight. Still looking good, and really just still on top of their game if you think about it.

Like, this family has maintained their name over two decades now. Some of their movies have been downright hilarious...others not so much. But they've had great television shows (My Wife and Kids, The Wayans Brothers, etc.) and they're still hustling. I don't often think about their legacy or what that means for entertainers and even "black" entertainment...but it just really sunk in to see them with Oprah, mature but still jokers. And now the next generation is writing, and producing, and this is it. This is how legacies are sustained.

In the 80s and 90s we required nothing more than a funny script and a couple of characters like Shanaynay or Homie the Clown just being stupid and cracking us up for months and years on end. I miss the purity of that. I miss that genuine from-the-heart laughter that makes you just happy to be a part of the generation and community that gets to enjoy these gifts.

I love the world of entertainment...not just for the "entertainment" value, but the people behind it. The singers, and writers, and those who work so hard to keep us happy and inspired. I love that comedy is making a comeback in such a pure form. No gimmicks or ridiculousness, just funny people doing and saying funny shit.
So this is my public "thank you" to Kevin Hart, and to the Wayans family for inspiring me this weekend. I've admired them over the years...but this weekend took it to a real ADULT professional level. Like these guys were just common jokesters 15 years ago, and now they are bonafide business men and icons. It makes me happy to see them do well, and to know that even just through our emotions and our laughter, that we are sharing in a piece of this history.

It feels good. We need more of this laughter in the world. It goes a long way.