Mixed Praise for Tyler Perry’s “The Family that Preys” Movie

Tyler Perry, the one-man writer-producer-director, has done it again with his latest weekend box office hit. In his recent movie “The Family that Preys,” he created an entertaining and funny film with a with an easy-to-follow, and sometimes a bit too predictable storyline. And true to Perry fashion, no matter whether the tale turned sad or sweet, humor was present at every step.

“The Family that Preys” is about two southern families that are tied together by the interracial friendship between the matriarchs, Alice Pratt (Alfre Woodard) and Charlotte Cartwright (Kathy Bates). The issues of race, class, adultery and interracial relationships are played out mostly through the lives of their children.

Perry’s characters were a bit one-dimensional. They were either good or bad; likeable or not. Andrea, played by Sanaa Latham, was a successful, Harvard-educated financial professional who lands a high-paying job at Charlotte Cartwright’s development company. Although Andrea had the good job, education and money, she ended up being the classless sister who talked down to her hard-working mother, Alice, and sister Pam (Taraji P. Henson) who both worked in her mother’s diner. Depicted as the ingrate, Andrea’s character became super un-likeable after the audience realized that her big paychecks were the result of her affair with Charlotte’s son, William (Cole Hauser) instead of her Ivy League education.

On the Cartwright side, the villain is Charlotte’s son William who is secretly trying to take control of his mother’s company while sleeping with “the help,” Andrea. Perhaps Perry is making a statement on slavery times, since William has the beautiful white wife whom he plays the doting husband while keeping his loins satisfied with his African-American mistress.

And in the midst of all the debauchery going on at the Cartwright company, Alice and Charlotte take a “Thelma and Louise” meets “Driving Miss Daisy” trip across the country. Call me cynical, but I knew that something was up when Charlotte acts desperate to take a road trip (and normally doesn’t drive) to create memories. Their travels were a bit hokie for me but revealed the strength of their friendship that transcended race and class.

For those of you that are Showtime’s “Soul Food” fans, you can appreciate seeing Rockmond Dunbar back on the screen. However, he could have played a more believable character. Dunbar plays Andrea’s husband, Chris, who is a construction worker who is constantly humiliated by his wife. Andrea talks down to him, cheats on him and behaves as if she is embarrassed by him and his blue-collar job. And the worst part of it all is that Chris (Dunbar) is too simple (read: stupid) to notice Andrea’s cheating and outright disrespect.

Three cheers for Robin Given’s character, Abby, the Ivy League educated chief operating officer hired by Charlotte Cartwright to run her company and leave her son wide-eyed and wide-mouthed. Smart, educated and classy, Abby developed her impressive resume through working hard and not working “it” unlike her counterpart, Andrea.

Speaking of Andrea, perhaps one of the most interesting turns was Sanaa Latham not playing the good girl. From “Love & Basketball” to “Brown Sugar” to “Something New,” Latham always played the woman you were rooting for. Well, in “Preys” her character Andrea is so dirty, mean and ungrateful that you just want to drop kick her butt!

Perry did a good job of depicting the ups and downs of friendship, love, relationships and family while dipping his toe into the race and class pond. However, he could have done a better job at creating more three-dimensional characters and a story line that wasn’t so foreseeable.

Although this review might be in the minority, “Why I Got Married?” has been his best film yet. With that said, Perry fans are excited to see his next one.

Overall: B

Written and directed by Tyler Perry; director of photography, Toyomichi Kurita; edited by Maysie Hoy; music by Aaron Zigman; production designer, Ina Mayhew; produced by Mr. Perry and Reuben Cannon; released by Lionsgate. Running time: 1 hour 51 minutes.

STARRING: Kathy Bates (Charlotte), Alfre Woodard (Alice), Tyler Perry (Ben), Cole Hauser (William), Sanaa Lathan (Andrea), Rockmond Dunbar (Chris), Taraji P. Henson (Pam), Kadee Strickland (Jillian), Sebastian Siegel (Nick) and Robin Givens (Abby).


Caramel Bella

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