Presented as a story told by a marriage counselor to her unfaithful (and, considering what unfolds, extremely patient) client, Tyler Perry’s Temptation centers on the tragedy of Judith (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) and Brice (Lance Gross), a couple destined to be together since childhood. Happily married and persevering toward their professional goals in Washington, D.C., their lives take a melodramatic turn when social media wunderkind Harley (Robbie Jones) attempts to seduce Judith. Poorly acted and even more clumsily written, this inane cautionary tale steadily drifts toward absurdity, saving a string of shocking reveals for its final five minutes. Along the way, the film’s positive message loses almost all credibility and, with the possible exception of Perry completists, is sure to alienate its brave viewers.
Faithful minds may wander and good people make poor decisions daily, yet Temptation offers little reason why Judith would compromise her marriage. The supposed sticking point is Brice’s insistence that in roughly 15 years, the couple will be in a better financial place with he running a small pharmacy and she operating her own marriage counseling firm. Well, that’s too long for Judith and when Harley offers to get her established in exchange for leaving her husband, she privately considers the offer while verbally denying in the name of fidelity.
Fueling her susceptibility, Perry has a bad habit of dropping in Brice’s subsequent misdeeds, such as forgetting her birthday or *gasp* watching a football game when he should be doing who knows what with her. By adding extra information on the spot (i.e. it’s the second year in a row he’s neglected her big day), Brice is depicted as a worse guy than his otherwise supportive self suggests and nowhere near warrants Judith responding the way she does.
What’s unfortunate is that Smollett-Bell is actually quite good in Temptation’s quieter moments. Playing the good girl, her smile and innocent flirtations channel genuine charm while her co-stars struggle to keep up. Jones is especially awkward, his big dumb smile unable to hide his acting deficiencies. Other than his washboard abs and padded checking account, it’s difficult to accept Judith’s infatuation. The strong, silent, and similarly toned Gross fares somewhat better, exuding an appealing kindheartedness though often comes off just as wooden as his rival.
With the exception of Renee Taylor as Brice’s wise-cracking pharmacy boss, the female cast members are similarly drab. Among the casualties are Vanessa Williams as Judith’s ridiculously faux-French accented boss; an ill-equipped Brandy Norwood as a young woman running from her abusive ex; and the plastic Kim Kardashian as Judith’s judgmental coworker, whose flat line delivery and expressionless face form a consistent distraction. Somehow outdoing them all are Smollett-Bell’s occasional angry tirades. An early scene of Judith losing her cool at a group of lewd young men is silly, but later on when she’s coked up with Harley, her rampant loopiness and temper tantrums exhibit a new level of hilarity.
Interspersed with slick helicopter shots of D.C. that feel lifted from an action movie, Temptation is a consistent mess and unsuccessful in its moralizing aims. Despite all these issues, the film is almost worth seeing for the insanity of its closing minutes, a stretch of revelations that rival the infamous Safe Haven epiphany. Still, the path there is one of extreme unpleasantness and is far from advisable.
Rated PG-13 for some violence, sexuality and drug content.
Tyler Perry’s Temptation is currently playing at the Carolina Cinemas on Hendersonville Rd.
TP should really stick to being a drag queen, and perhaps just come out of the closet already. If he actually has any film-making talent, it may be that it’s as suppressed as his homosexuality. Also, some therapy may be in order so that he can address his obvious hatred of women.
Enjoyed Edwin’s review, it’s exactly how I feel about the movie. The girls I was with thought it was brilliant though. I was disappointed mainly by Vanessa Williams and Brandy as well as Kim. They were just big names but added nothing extra to the movie. But funny enough I would still advise people to see it for themselves.
I’m curious how the play on which the film is based tells the story. Maybe the twists work better in a live performance?