While well known for his comedy, writer/director Tyler Perry (“Madea’s Witness Protection”) proves in his latest release, “Temptation,” that he also has a flare for the dramatics, and it comes off as pretty funny, too. But is this creative combination a genre “marriage” meant to be, or might divorce be the result?

Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor

C+
At Quality 16 and Rave

Lionsgate


When Judith (Jurnee Smollett-Bell, “The Great Debaters”), a therapist for an upscale matchmaking company, meets Harley (Robbie Jones, “Transit”), a successful social-media mogul — as attractive as he is wealthy — she begins to question her commitment to Brice (Lance Gross, “The Last Fall”), her husband of six years.

While the leading lady and her men give fine performances, the most memorable characters come from the film’s hodgepodge of a supporting cast, which includes Vanessa Williams (“He’s Way More Famous Than You”) as Janice, the snooty, faux-French speaking head of the matchmaking agency. There’s also Renée Taylor (“Should’ve Been Romeo”) as the lovably senile old lady who owns the pharmacy where Brice works. And, of course, who could forget Kim Kardashian as Ava, Judith’s stuck-up, fashion-forward coworker who routinely criticizes her outfits.

Kardashian’s performance is a perfect metaphor for why “Temptation” neither entirely disappoints nor thoroughly satisfies, but rather confuses. It’s so unbelievable that it’s hilariously entertaining — like a Lifetime Network movie on steroids.

Without giving too much away, there’s clever cattiness, sex, drug use, domestic abuse, financial difficulty and even mockery of the super religious. If you ever want to watch fictional characters endure any and every form of dysfunction, here’s your chance.

Perry capitalizes on this “so unbelievable it’s entertaining” theme by constructing the film as a giant flashback. Judith, now a marriage counselor, recalls the story of “her sister’s” struggles with fidelity to make a point with her client. It’s a predictable Hollywood convention that screams “cheesy”; in this case, it fits with Perry’s style of storytelling.

But just because a style “works” doesn’t mean it works well. The downside to wrapping a film around this melodramatic approach is that it diminishes a viewer’s connection with the characters and their livelihood. Drama that’s laughable cannot masquerade as drama that’s appreciable. As Harley woos Judith into dangerous waters, the mindset isn’t one of empathy or even sympathy for Brice, as his suspicion and heartbreak grows. Who cares about how he feels? We just want to know what kind of craziness will happen next!

So, while Perry’s latest offers some hearty laughs and gasps from a plethora of “oh, no he didn’t” moments, its lack of authenticity begs all kinds of questions: Is this a drama? Is this a comedy? Are we even supposed to take this seriously? Nonetheless, one thing’s for sure: If Perry was shooting for the bull’s eye of the guilty pleasure target, he’s hit it smack dab in the middle.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.