By Emanuel Levy

Tyler Perry’s “Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor” is pure trash, a silly and manipulative picture that tries to pass as a morality play for our troubled times, but is not good enough even for a late night episode on serial TV or Cable.

No wonder there were no advance press screening for this picture, which is likely to be dismissed by most critics (or those who will bother to see it). I am in New York this weekend and so I caught an early screening today in a movie theater on Broadway.

Perry: www.emanuellevy.com/review/for-colored-girls-8/

Since it’s Good Friday, and many people are off from work, there were more spectators than I had anticipated. Only a few patrons walked out during the show, but at the end, I was tempted to ask a group of young and attractive black females what they thought of the film, as several of them were giggling at the most “serious” and “dramatic” moments.

“Temptation” could have been just a sleazy, one-weekend melodrama about the endless seductive temptations and the dangers and risks of cheating, if the picture were no trying to preach some “important” lessons about love, passion, trust, monogamy, marriage, nuclear family.

Neither an intriguing exploration of infidelity nor a compelling tale of obsessive desire, “Temptation” (a title that sounds like perfume sold at Macy’s) is a cheap exploitation fare, aiming to cash in on the popularity of its stars and the name value of its mogul-director.

In the press notes, Tyler Perry, the multi-hyphenate producer-screenwriter-director, solemnly states: “It’s about a woman who starts to get restless in her relationship, but her choice to be with another man has a huge effect on the rest of her life.” This description can be applied to at least half of the romantic triangles and erotic melodramas made in Hollywood, past and present.

I have not liked any of Tyler Perry’s pictures, not even the broad comedies, but “Temptation” is dreadful even by his own standards. Perry has built a niche for himself, heavily marketing his fare to African American women (and some men). He has a solid track record as far as commercial appeal is concerned, and there’s no denying that at the very least his movies offer roles to a large number of beautiful but otherwise unemployed black actresses.

Never a subtle director, Perry outdoes himself here by using every trick and gimmick in the book to propel his preposterous tale. This is a holiday weekend, and so I will not use the Bible, but Perry’s ambitions are of epic proportions in their implications

The characters are motivated–if this is the right word–by fear, anxiety, shame. A ludicrous cautionary tale about the horrors of STD (sexually transmitted diseases) “Temptation” is not above exploiting Syphilis, HIV virus, AIDS, among other things, for its own dubious goals.

Jurnee Smollett-Bell plays Judith, a young woman who along with her boyfriend Brice (Lance Gross) relocate from their small Southern town for a better life in the big city of Washington, D.C. Judith aspires to be a marriage counselor and Brice, for no apparent reason, would like to own his own drugstore.

In the process, the duo meets and begins to cater to the needs of

the rich and famous. Judith toils at a millionaire-matchmaking service, managed by Vanessa Williams, and Brice provides all kinds of pills for Renee Taylor.

Enter Harley (Robbie Jones), a smooth and slick internet mogul whose plan of investing in the dating business is a camouflage for his sexually pursuit of Judith. Would she succumb to his charms? How long will it take?

Soon Judith is changing completely the way she looks, wearing high-heel shoes and sexy, glamorous dresses. She is getting guidance from er
co-worker Ava (Kim Kardashian, the reality star who shows no acting talent whatsoever), while disobeying the orders of her religious mother Sarah (Ella Joyce).

Smollett-Bell, who was so impressive as a youngster in the 1997 coming-of-age “Eve’s Bayou,” is not untalented. But her part, just like the rest of the movie, is so poorly and ludicrously written that at the end she comes across as a caricature of a boozy, drug-addicted femme.
There is not a single decent performance in the entire film, which is a result of the preposterous tale, lurid tone, and Perry’s misdirection.

It doesn’t help that “Temptation” overstays its welcome by at least 20 minutes, and that the audience is always ahead of the filmmakers due to the tale’s formulaic and predictable nature.

Just like bad junk food, the movie is utterly disposable and immediately forgettable, and I am still more intrigued by the giggles I heard from the young women during the screening.