Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor (2013) Lionsgate Films
1 hr. 52 mins.
Starring: Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Lance Gross, Kim Kardashian, Vanessa L. Williams, Robbie Jones, Brandy Norwood, Renee Taylor, Ella Joyce
Directed by: Tyler Perry
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Critic’s rating: ** stars (out of 4 stars)
Writer-director Tyler Perry seems to have a cinematic niche for chronicling the Christian-themed exploits of black women and applying their accountabilities in comedic and dramatic morality tales. Regardless of these finger-pointing females-from the over-the-top, frumpy gun-toting grandma in the Madea movies to a young, ambitious, curvaceous and conflicted siren in Temptation’s Judith-Perry embellishes their on-screen strife with problematic pageantry. Indeed, women of color certainly have an advocate in the Southern-bred filmmaker on the big screen.
In the overwrought dramedy Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor, Perry conjures up a muddled and mawkish melodrama about the perils of infidelity as the gradual disillusionment of an up-and-coming professional couple’s marriage starts to crack at the emotional center. Perry tries to pour on the decadence (with the film’s curious PG-13 rating no doubt) with the lavish display of ridiculously gorgeous players, a so-called steamy subject matter and its dire consequences and the uneven slapdish of broad comedy and twists in the final act to soften the preachy platitudes of the film’s cautionary message. Nevertheless, Temptation’s flamboyance is slight, sporadic and sloppy.
In short, Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor is a long-winded and lackluster big screen soap opera that feels dismissively punchy and pointless. Even Perry’s gimmicky inclusion of the ubiquitous reality TV star and media maiden Kim Kardashian smells of desperation in an attempt to make Temptation…er, tempting!
Sensual Judith (Jurnee Smollett-Bell, the child star of “Eve’s Bayou”) and her equally attractive husband Brice (Lance Gross) were childhood sweethearts and now a married couple looking for startling career pursuits. Judith wants to become a marriage counselor while pharmacist Brice has his sights set on owning a drugstore. So the pair decides to uproot to Washington D.C. and get their dream careers underway. However, as ambitious as the tandem is to progress in their professional lives there is a slow burn of stagnation growing within their personal lives.
Subsequently, Judith lands a job at a millionaire-matchmaking service agency headed up by French-speaking proprietor Janice (Vanessa L. Williams awkwardly channeling her prior upper lip regal role from TV’s “Ugly Betty”). By all accounts Judith is a “good girl” and has always played by the rules. Among Judith’s co-workers is Ava (Kim Kardashian), a shapely sass thrown in the mix as Judith’s workplace woes start to mount.
In the meanwhile, Brice performs his pill-pushing duties for the obnoxious Ms. Chapman (Renee Taylor from TV’s “The Nanny”). Somehow, Brice’s indifference towards Judith’s expectations (sexual and otherwise) will be the catalyst for things to come in the transformation of his wife’s inevitable erratic behavior.
Enter online megabucks hotshot Harley (Robbie Jones), a painfully handsome cad that has a financial interest in part ownership of the dating service where he spots the vivacious but goody two shoes Judith. Harley is focused on lustfully nabbing the married beauty as his charm and attention is too much of an infectious force for Judith to resist. In her eyes, the hunky Harley is offering her the feedback that hubby Brice evidently has been lacking.
Soon, Judith-with the assistance of her nasally cohort Ava-is transformed into a party-hearty gal whose carnal affinity for Harley is also highlighted by her new found flashy taste for alcohol, drugs and provocative attire. Judith is now a lost soul…a hedonistic honeybun walking on the dark side of what was once forbidden by her childhood values. The God-fearing spirituality of her faith-seeking mother Sarah (Ella Joyce from TV’s “Roc”) cannot even shake the deviant lifestyle that has consumed Judith’s corrosive psyche.
Frenzied and formulaic, Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor could have been a sturdy and shocking story on the deterioration of genuine commitment and faith being substituted for throwaway thrills at the expense of wayward anxieties. Unfortunately, Perry’s static-ridden exposition has all the depth and dimension of a metal skillet. The prolonged flashbacks, mixed overtones of camp and crisis-oriented pathos and cartoonish commentary on sainthood and sinning turns Temptation into laughable a mincemeat of a misguided melodrama. The performances, for the most part, feel stiffened and inconsequential given the rollicking themes of adultery and the tainted personalities that are both empowered and victimized by such lascivious behavior.
As the juiced-up Judith, Smollet-Bell is reasonably effective until her out-of-control boozehound babe routine overloads on its ludicrous switch. The sexy encounters and sordid scenes of women, jet-setting joints and other excesses have all the provocative pithiness of a naughty Playboy issue from the 70’s. The added topsy-turvy shenanigans that arrive late in the film fail to compensate for the melodramatic mediocrity that crippled its momentum.
Clearly intended as one of Perry’s featured attractions in the sluggish Temptation, Kadashian’s Ava has a vocal delivery that makes most vacuum cleaners sound lyrical. Kardashian’s wooden acting produces more splinters than your local park bench. Williams does not fare any better while delivering a pseudo-French accent that has all the authenticity of a rusty girder on the Eiffel Tower. Taylor is thrown into this fleshy fable as the comic relief oldster.
Temptation could have been trashy fun but this is one Perry-produced sermon that flatly falls on deaf ears.