Review: The Family That Preys

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That’s the magic of the Tyler Perry genre. A pat and predictable cautionary tale which nonetheless manages to push the right emotional buttons every time.

[Entertainment: Film Review]


First, on the stage, then on screen, Tyler Perry has successfully introduced his unique brand of modern morality plays uniquely flavored with the distinctive refrains of African-American culture.

These uplifting, faith-based melodramas tend to explore a variety of timely themes of concern to the black community while mixing in generous helpings of Tyler’s trademark comedy.

His latest offering, The Family That Preys, is a slight variation on the familiar formula in that whites have been added to the principal cast. But the film otherwise relies on the staples of a typical Tyler Perry production, namely, well-crafted female characters summoning up the gumption to deal with dysfunction in real-life crises pitting good versus evil.

This story revolves around Alice Pratt (Alfre Woodard) and Charlotte Catrwright (Kathy Bates), Southern matriarchs presiding over a couple of families about to be embroiled in the same scandal. Socialite Charlotte is the CEO of the multi-million dollar construction company she inherited from her late husband, while relatively-humble Alice owns a down-home diner located across the tracks called A Wing and a Prayer. Despite the difference between their financial fortunes, the widows’ have remained best friends over the years, a relationship about to be sorely tested.

The point of departure is the wedding of Alice’s almost college-graduated daughter Andrea (Sanaa Lathan) to Chris (Rockmund Dunbar), an unemployed blue-collar worker. During the reception, Charlotte’s married son, William (Cole Hauser), who can barely hide his attraction to the bride, promises both her and the groom jobs with the Cartwright Corporation after the honeymoon.

The film then fast-forwards four years, and we discover that Andrea is already unhappy being the principal bread-winner. She neither respects her husband, nor shows much interest in raising their young son, whom she leaves for long stretches at the diner to be cared for by her waitress sister (Taraji P. Henson).

The picture soon starts dropping hints at every turn that Andrea might be sleeping with her boss, too, from her working overtime in the evenings, to her having a secret six-figure bank account, to her driving a Mercedes company car, to her wearing jewelry she couldn’t afford. Cuckolded Chris is either too trusting or too dense to notice anything funny until his brother-in-law, Ben (Perry), finally blurts out the truth.

Meanwhile, equally-clueless Charlotte talks Alice into joining her in a classic convertible for a hedonistic cross-country trip reminiscent of The Bucket List or Thelma & Louise, take your pick. The overplotted production has creepy William not only cheating on his wife (KaDee Strickland), but planning to fleece his mother out of her controlling interest in the family business.

Fortunately, Charlotte and Alice return just in the nick of time to right the wrongs and to tie up the rest of the loose ends oh so satisfactorily.

That’s the magic of the Tyler Perry genre. A pat and predictable cautionary tale which nonetheless manages to push the right emotional buttons every time.

 Excellent (4 stars). Rated PG-13 for mature themes, sexual references and brief violence.  Running time: 111 minutes. Studio: Lions Gate Films

 




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