Tyler Perry’s Temptation doesn’t break any new ground for him as a writer or director. In fact, it’s so full of his cliches that you should be able to determine exactly how everybody’s story will turn out 20 minutes into it.
The movie stars Jurnee Smollett-Bell as Judith, a 26-year-old woman married to her childhood sweetheart and all-around nice guy Brice (Lance Gross). She wants to become a marital therapist, but until she has the money to start her own office she’s working for Janice (Vanessa Williams) by running a matchmaking service for very wealthy singles. One of her clients, an Internet billionaire named Harley (Robbie Jones) -- who is described by her co-worker Ava (Kim Kardashian) as the third-most-successful social-media inventor since Zuckerberg -- falls for her and attempts to seduce her away from Brice, the only man she’s ever slept with.
Meanwhile, as Judith pulls away from her husband, Brice hires a new employee at the small-town pharmacy he works at. Her name is Melinda (Brandy Norwood) and she’s running away from a stalker ex-husband who was prone to violent tantrums.
The most dependable aspect of Tyler Perry’s entire output is its vulgar obviousness. He doesn’t just lack subtlety, he oversells every emotion and every consequence until the characters onscreen lose all credibility as real people. It’s hard to believe actors want to work with him.
As for the performers this time around, Smollett-Bell has two modes: naïve ingenue, and later, after she’s succumbed to temptation, coked-out frizzy-haired harlot -- which is exactly how Perry, stuck in a Madonna/whore complex, writes her character. Robbie Jones has killer abs and the right kind of snake-like charm that Perry wants. As for Kim Kardashian, her line readings are as flat as her body is curvy.
Just like all of Perry’s dramas, religion plays a major part, and there’s something in Perry’s artistic personality that’s nearly biblical in his desire to punish wrongdoing. Once again, HIV is used as a symbol of the long-term effects that a woman suffers for making bad decisions, and, just like in many of his previous films, there’s no problem that can’t be overcome if we just keep going to church. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that sentiment, but it doesn’t make for interesting storytelling or engaging art. Tyler Perry is a moralist who doesn’t have sense enough to engage us by making sin look like fun.
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