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Should You Be Lured by “Tyler Perry’s Temptation”?

March 28, 2013

True confession: I’d never seen a Tyler Perry movie…until I couldn’t resist Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor. I’m not a fan of Madea-style broad (in every way) comedies or Medea-style moralistic melodramas. But one of the actresses in Temptation‘s cast attracted me—and no, I’m not talking about Kim Kardashian, who has a small but deeply silly role as a temptress and proves even less convincing playing a “character” than she is playing herself on her many rE!ality shows.

No, it was the presence of Jurnee Smollett-Bell that intrigued me. I’ve been following her career ever since she starred with her family in the ABC kidcom On Our Own in 1994-5, but she really impressed me with her dramatic performance in the title role of director Kasi Lemmons’ seminal indie Eve’s Bayou in 1997. More recently, she scored as a small-town Texan in the brilliant TV drama Friday Night Lights. Surely, she could bring a touch of class to offset Kardashian’s touch of crass.

Well, Smollett-Bell does the best she can, but even she can’t redeem this hokey, playing-to-the-back-rows adaptation of one of Perry’s stage shows, The Marriage Counselor. She takes on the title role in this flashback-driven morality play in which a couples therapist counsels a troubled couple by telling them the story of her own turbulent marriage back in the day (which seems to be the present—so is the framing device set in the future? Perry never clarifies.)

It seems Smollett-Bell’s Judith was wed to a faithful but slightly dull pharmacist (Lance Gross), who was holding her back from her dream of starting her own practice while she was working for a matchmaking service for millionaires operated by a diva with a ridiculous French accent (Vanessa Williams, who’s thoroughly wasted). Into her office slithers a seemingly charming internet mogul (Robbie Jones) who tempts her into adultery, drug abuse and more. There are no shades of gray here—the characters may as well wear signs around their necks saying “GOOD” and “EVIL.”

The only suspense the film generates centers around a subplot about an abused woman (Brandy Norwood, who’s not bad) on the run from her ex who takes a job at the pharmacy where Gross works with a ditzy old white lady (Renée Taylor, who must be used to this kind of Bologna from her longtime marriage to Joe). Oh, and Roc‘s Ella Joyce pops up as Smollett-Bell’s Bible-thumping mom, who tries to coax her wayward daughter back to the straight and narrow godly path.

What Temptation really needs is Madea to come and smack some sense upside Judith’s coked-out head. Almost all of the comedy here is strictly unintentional. And the denouement—well, it’s just damn depressing. To borrow the title of one of his other films, Temptation is far from one of Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds.

Will you give in to Tyler Perry’s Temptation? Post a comment!

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