The title of this movie invites such an obvious snarky comment that it’s difficult to resist just saying it, right now, at the very beginning of this review.
Lead us not into “Tyler Perry’s Temptation.”
No, no, I must resist. I must. First of all, every critic in America will undoubtedly fall back on that New Testament riff when they rip into Perry’s latest hackneyed melodrama, which was not screened in advance for press. The last thing I want to do on Easter weekend is commit the sin of making a bad Biblical pun, especially when Perry has already committed so many cinematic sins in this intelligence-insulting film.
Arguably, the biggest one of all: casting Kim Kardashian in a supporting role.
Wait, Kim Kardashian is in this? And she’s trying to act?
Yes, America, she is! And even though this isn’t the first time that’s happened — she’s previously played pretend people on TV and in occasional movies, in addition to the actual fake person (herself) she plays on “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” — she appears to have zero experience uttering dialogue for the purposes of storytelling. She’s just dreadful.
Then again, even people who have previously demonstrated some acting skill — like Jurnee Smollett-Bell, who exuded both femininity and tomboy-spunk as Jess on NBC’s “Friday Night Lights,” and Vanessa Williams — seem completely at sea here, dragged down by a lazy script and excruciatingly slow pacing.
In “Temptation,” we meet Judith (Smollett-Bell) and Brice (Lance Gross), childhood sweethearts who grew up in the South, married young and moved to Washington. The only reason we know they’re in the District, by the way, is due to the overused, interstitial aerial shots of the Capitol and the Kennedy Center. Otherwise, the setting feels about as D.C. as Buford, Wyoming.
Brice becomes a pharmacist, Judith starts working for a matchmaker (Williams, who incomprehensibly speaks with a French accent solely to serve a lame punch line that doesn’t land until the movie’s final half-hour) while dreaming of starting a marriage counseling practice, and together they settle into a nuptial funk that’s increasingly weighing on Judith. Meanwhile, there’s an ultra-smooth social media mogul named Harley (Robbie Jones, essentially playing an African American, sexually aggressive version of Mark Zuckerberg) who’s working on a business-related project with Judith and blatantly attempting to seduce her.
Look, we know what’s going to happen. The movie’s called “Temptation,” okay? Yet we still have to sit through more than an hour of flirty glances and repetitive conversations between Judith and Harley until anything vaguely adulterous occurs. Brandy Norwood plays one of Brice’s co-workers, but we don’t fully understand why her character even exists until the wackadoodle, 11th-hour plot twist finally rears its head in traditional Tyler Perry-movie fashion.
Still, nothing is as exhausting as listening to Kardashian’s nasal whining. As one of Judith’s colleagues, she’s a glamourpuss who makes vapid comment (“A degree on the wall without labels on your back means nothing”) after exceedingly rude comment (“When people look at you, it reflects badly on me”) until you can’t help but wonder (“Is your fashion icon a Delta stewardess?”) why Judith ever has conversations with this woman (“Oh. My. God. You’re wearing flats??”) in the first place.
It’s interesting that the movie highlights all the things that can go wrong when a person becomes too wrapped up in status, flashy symbols of wealth and sexual heat. In a sense, “Tyler Perry’s Temptation” is ultimately a cautionary tale about turning into Kim Kardashian.
And on that score at least, this movie gets an amen.
Chaney is a freelance writer.
PG-13. At area theaters. Contains violence, sexuality and drug content. 111 minutes.