Tyler Perry's Temptation: Film Review
Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Lance Gross, Kim Kardashian, Vanessa Williams, Robbie Jones, Brandy Norwood
The prolific multihyphenate delivers a morality tale about adultery for Easter.
Even grading on the curve that inevitably must be applied to the prolific multihyphenate filmmaker’s efforts, Tyler Perry’s Temptation merits an F. This laughable melodrama, subtitled Confessions of a Marriage Counselor, must have seemed over-the-top in its original form as one of his perennially touring stage shows. Onscreen, it somehow manages to be at once wildly overblown and terminally boring.
A cautionary tale about adultery that makes Reefer Madness seem subtle, it depicts the marital crisis of Judith (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), who works as the “in-house therapist” for an upscale matchmaking agency. Married to her childhood sweetheart Brice (Lance Gross), a druggist whose modest lifelong dream is to someday own his own pharmacy, she finds herself increasingly unhappy over such transgressions as his forgetting her birthday two years in a row.
So she’s easily susceptible to the charms of handsome billionaire Harley (Robbie Jones), a social-media entrepreneur negotiating a business deal with her boss (Vanessa Williams, assuming a comical French accent and dropping phrases like “mon cherie” and “au revoir”). The chiseled Harley -- who owns a townhouse to die for and a private plane -- pours on the charm and ultimately seduces Judith during a business trip to New Orleans.
Almost immediately afterward, he reveals his true colors as an abusive womanizer and drug and alcohol abuser. Suddenly the previously prim and decorous Judith is wearing revealing outfits, swigging champagne and snorting cocaine, much to the consternation of her cuckolded husband and her mother Sarah (Ella Joyce), a reverend who communicates mostly through shouted biblical quotations.
Featuring a big reveal toward the end that makes the proceedings even more absurdly melodramatic, the schematic storyline culminates in an inevitable violent confrontation between Brice and the devilish interloper who stole his wife’s body and soul.
Perry seems to have little sympathy for his troubled lead character who impulsively leaves her perfectly decent husband even after he serenades her with an Otis Redding song while wearing only boxers, revealing a perfectly toned body that had female audience members gasping.
While the material flirts with 50 Shades of Grey territory, Perry strictly avoids gray areas in this heavy-handed morality tale. The characters tend to be either saintly, like Brice’s employee (Brandy Norwood) who lives in fear of an abusive ex, or thoroughly repugnant, like Judith’s shallow, clothes-obsessed co-worker (Kim Kardashian, whose monotonous line readings demonstrate that she saved her real acting talents for her sex tape).
Despite the extensive volume of features he’s produced, Perry somehow seems to have developed not one bit as a filmmaker, not to mention exhibiting a complete absence of insight into actual human behavior. Sluggishly paced and drenched in syrupy music, the proceedings feature endless establishing shots of its Washington, D.C., locale, apparently proving that you can’t get from one area of town to another without passing the Capitol, the Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial. Similarly, the New Orleans sequence, featuring every cliched aspect of the city imaginable, might as well have been filmed by that city’s tourism bureau.
Not surprisingly, none of the actors fares well, with Smollett-Bell particularly straining to convey her character’s wild personality shifts. The film might have benefited from the presence of Perry’s Madea character, say as the bible-spouting mother. She, at least, might have breathed some life into the soporifically preachy proceedings.