Tyler Perry's 'Temptation' lags and limps
By Kate Erbland, Special to MSN Movies
If nothing else, filmmaker Tyler Perry has proved himself adept at moving between highly disparate genres, with his most recognizable feature films falling into two very different categories: his silly "Madea" franchise and serious fare like his "Why Did I Get Married?" films. His latest, "Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor," is his most dramatic film yet, a bizarrely over-the-top sermon that exists in a world devoid of shades of gray. Based on his own play, "Temptation" stars Jurnee Smollett-Bell as Judith, a small-town girl who has made her way to the big city to pursue her dream of becoming a marriage counselor. Her chosen career path is a strange one, as the 20-something has known her husband, Brice (Lance Gross), for the majority of her life, and the pair appears to be blissfully happy. What wisdom could Judith possibly impart on couples in trouble? Turns out, not very much.
Fresh out of graduate school, Judith takes a job at a millionaire matchmaker agency run by Janice (Vanessa Williams, with a laughably fake French accent), a high-end operation that Judith can't stand, despite only working there for less than a month. The normally sweet Judith's displeasure in her workplace in palatable -- Perry has crammed his leading lady with all manner of personality attributes, none of which seem to match up with each other -- though it's hard to blame her when she's stuck working around people like Kim Kardashian's shockingly rude Ava. Through a number of highly unnecessary plot contrivances, social media mogul Harley (Robbie Jones) comes to the agency (not for a match, no, of course not. Why would someone like Harley have a problem getting a date? Oh, just you wait) and the two begin working with each other on a computer program that matches romantic compatibility (it makes even less sense within the context of the film).
It's obvious where this is going from the start, but Perry's film lags and limps along its two-hour runtime before finally going whole hog on one of the most dizzyingly weird final acts in recent cinematic history. Perry's cautionary tale is delivered in the most ham-fisted way possible, hell-bent on imparting on its audience that any acts of infidelity will lead to alcoholism, drug addiction, career disaster and far worse. His actors deliver hefty pieces of exposition via stilted conversation, and absolutely no one feels like a real person or a believable character. It doesn't help that Perry has attempted to build in mystery and intrigue to his "Temptation," and while a number of his plotted "twists" reveal themselves far in advance, the whole enterprise is actually at the mercy of a jaw-dropper of a secret that will leave audiences reeling and wondering if maybe, just maybe, the rest of the film was worth enduring just for that final gasp.
Kate Erbland is a contributing writer for MSN Movies, a critic for Boxoffice magazine, and an associate editor for Film School Rejects. She has been writing about movies since 2008, but has been thinking about movies for far longer. She lives in Los Angeles.