I know what I am about to write is tantamount to heresy in some circles but I have never been a huge Tyler Perry fans. Sure Madea is funny and he has gotten some solid performances from his actors. However, his tendency to sermonize, his kitchen sink approach to storytelling (let’s throw about four or five stories into the plot and see what happens) and his tendency to cast himself into a number of his films often leave me wanting more … a lot more. So I was surprised that I liked Temptation as much as I did.
Based on his play, The Marriage Counselor, the story is told by a counselor speaking with a client. She tells the cautionary tale of her sister Judith (Jurness Smollett-Bell) who was married to her childhood sweetheart Brice (Lance Gross). After college, they leave the country and head to the big city, Washington D.C. He is a pharmacist in a small pharmacy and she takes a job as a counselor in a matchmaking firm run by the very French Janice (Vanessa Williams) and her designer label-conscious co-worker Ava (Kim Kardashian). Judith desperately wants to run her own marriage counseling practice while her practical (and absolutely delectable husband) sees her dream as coming to fruition in about 10 years.
Complicating matters is Harley (Robbie Jones), an ambitious young Internet billionaire, who isn’t a client at the matchmaking firm but is considering taking their company and Judith’s compatibility test to the Internet. The two work together very closely and before long he’s giving her the attention her husband has often overlooked. He also stokes the fires of her ambition and before long he’s stokes some other fires as well. Judith’s mother, the Reverend (Ella Joyce) sees exactly what’s going one while poor Brice takes longer to realize what’s really going on.
This is still a Tyler Perry morality play. The people who behave badly (sinfully) will pay the price for their actions and the ones who stay the course will eventually get the pay-off they deserve. However, what I liked were the performances … especially by Smollet-Bell and Gross. I liked the fact that there was a main plot and a sub-plot, involving Brice’s new pharmacist’s assistant (Brandy Norwood). There weren’t a ton of distracting sub-plots. And, Perry didn’t play one of the leads. While he is coming into his own as a director, his acting leaves a lot to be desired, especially if the role requires sexiness. Lance Gross had it in spades, Robbie Jones not so much but he was the rich guy who paid attention to her and I guess that was what mattered most with his character (he did bring some shirtless sexy but Gross outsexied him by a mile).
I do think that this movie is a bit of a risk for Perry. It is sexier that any of his previous films and I think that will alienate a sizable portion of his Christian audience. Yes, there is a strong moral and Joyce plays the Voice of Religious Reason well (a bit too over the top at times) but there are several sex scenes as well. Tame sex scenes but sex scenes none the less.
This was a pleasant surprise.