In the Bible, Matthew 26:41 says “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
Tyler Perry brings this verse and much more to the big screen in his latest theatrical venture, Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor.
Written, directed, and producer by the TPS chief executive, the film is an adaption of Perry’s play of the same name.
Eve’s Bayou’s Jurnee Smollett is all grown up as Judith, a twenty-six year old woman married to her longtime love Brice; played by Perry favorite, Lance Gross. Despite the couple’s lengthy history Judith finds herself unsatisfied in their marriage.
In comes Robbie Jones as Harley. Charismatic, sexy, confident, and very rich he attempts to sweep Judith off her feet despite the band on her finger.
The film also features the talents of Vanessa Williams, Ella Joyce, Brandy, and Kim Kardasian — I use the word talent very loosely here.
Standout performances are given by both Jurnee Smollett and Robbie Jones. Their chemistry is undeniable. The two actors sizzle on-screen together.
Smollett once again confirms that she’s still got it. The former child star and Great Debaters powerhouse, delivers a wonderful performance as emotionally tortured Judith. Wavering between the promises of Harley’s money, sex, and the fast lane and Brice’s normalcy and reliability; the audience can feel her anguish.
With features that belong on a runway, Jones is mesmerizing as Harley. His organic sensuality is palpable. A skilled actor, Jones speaks volumes with only his face, or more specifically — his eyes. Ladies they gaze right through you. This is one performer that I would like to see more of.
Quick! Shonda Rhymes give him a role on one of your shows!
Ella Joyce shines as Judith’s mother, Sarah. The former Roc star brings her trademark intensity and tough love persona to the role.
René Taylor is pleasantly quirky as pharmacy owner, Ms. Chapman. Once again Tyler Perry proves that he is phenomenal when it comes to writing for older women.
Like the dialogue between Kathy Bates and Alfred Woodard in The Family that Preys, Ms. Chapman is fresh, interesting, and very funny.
Perry should give the dysfunctional family thing a rest and pen a film about the friendship of a group of older women. Now that would be golden!
Unfortunately, the seductive abs and chiseled features of Judith’s temptation aren’t enough to win me over with this film. The biggest let downs are the writing and the plot.
The dialogue is simultaneously a hit and a miss. At times it’s clever and insightful, yet in the next scene it’s loaded with exposition.
Temptation starts slow with a lengthy montage of Judith and Brice growing up, falling in love, and eventually getting married. Instead of establishing the depth of the couple’s relationship through a series of flashbacks, why not show it in their present day interactions. This would have solidified their bond while building Judith’s internal conflict over cheating on her husband.
The plot becomes somewhat predictable and clichéd…and the “twist.” Out of respect for the audience I won’t say what it is. I will only comment that I found it somewhat unlikely and seriously over-the-top.
Reality TV star Kim Kardasian proves that she is best on-screen without a script and left to own devices. The Keeping Up with the Kardasians star muddled through pages of dialogue without any real connection to the character.
Even more discouraging than her stick-like performance, was the fact that her character, Ava, really didn’t need to be in the film. She didn’t push the story forward or reveal anything about Judith that we didn’t already know from her conversations with others.
Last but not least, I have a carnal rule in film; be original — or at least try. When another actor does an iconic dance to a specific song in another popular film you cannot—should not — include a scene where your actors perform to that same song unless you are mocking the previous actor’s performance.
Brice performs to Otis Redding’s, “Try A Little Tenderness” in a cowboy hat and underwear and all I can think of is Duckie in the 1986 cult classic Pretty in Pink! Just don’t do it! There are tons of songs to dance half-naked to that won’t remind me of a skinny, over-accessorized kid, with dirty shoes, and a pompadour.
Temptation is a cautionary tale that the grass is not always greener on the other side. It’s a given that Tyler Perry fans, like myself, will continue to race to the theaters to see his latest creation. However, if you’re not “Team Perry” Temptation is best left in the theater alone. I hate to say Skip It, but if you don’t you’ll wish you had —yield not to this Temptation.
-Jennifer Hall, CBS Local
Check out Jon Cryer’s iconic scene as Duckie in Pretty in Pink.