Tyler Perry’s latest directorial effort is wacky, maudlin, sexy, chaste, violent, neutered, overwritten, underwritten, overacted, underacted, judgmental and pandering. In other words, for a certain kind of audience, Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor is the perfect kind of movie. For rational, sane people it’s bound to be considered one of the worst films of the year, but for seekers of wretched, glorious camp, it may be an instant classic.
Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor tells the story of the world’s worst marriage counselor, who goes way over her client’s time telling her a shame-inducing story about why the temptation to cheat on your husband is the worst thing in the world. The client can’t even get a word in edge-wise. She’s too busy listening attentively while a person with a professional and ethical responsibility to listen to and care about her client’s feelings first and foremost indulges in melodramatic scare tactics. The marriage counselor’s story is about her “sister,” by the way, but they’re played by the same actress, and the film isn’t called Confessions of a Marriage Counselor’s Sister, so it’s a little insulting that the movie considers it a big twist.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: I have been corrected on the above statement. The actress playing the marriage counselor is not Jurnee Smollett-Bell, it is actually Candice Coke, who bears some resemblance to the lead actress. The film still isn't called "Confessions of a Marriage Counselor's Sister," however, and since this "sister" never actually appears or is even mentioned in the flashback storyline, the plot point remains incredibly telegraphed.]
Jurnee Smollett-Bell plays the marriage counselor, Judith, who married her high school sweetheart and works as an in-house therapist at a pricey dating service for the super rich, because surely that job exists. Her employer Janice, played by Vanessa Williams with a comical French accent, is courting a social media mogul named Harley, played by Robbie Jones, to invest in the firm and launch an online version. Kim Kardashian – playing herself, essentially – claims that Harley is the next Mark Zuckerberg, but she pronounces “Mark Zuckerberg” like she has no idea who that person is.
Harley is an incomparable studmuffin with expensive suits and a propensity to show off his pecs, so naturally Judith is attracted to him. He exploits her romantic inexperience and inherent shallowness to lure her into a world of opulence, excess and sexual temptation. Meanwhile, Judith’s husband Brice, played by Lance Gross (who also has awesome pecs), has begun taking her for granted. Nineteen years will do that to a relationship, but before long, Judith allows Harley to rape her – she tries to fight back, but that just turns him on more, so she lets him – and begins a rapid decline into drug abuse, hedonism and sex scenes obscured by impossible amounts of steam that preserve the film’s PG-13 rating and screw the audience out of what we paid money for.
It’s a plot worthy of 1990s Skinemax with a moral worthy of the Dark Ages. Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor has a remarkable sympathy for its heroine, whose attraction to Harley feels perfectly justified, but acting upon her desires isn’t just insensitive to her husband, it’s also apparently a sin worthy of eternal damnation visited not in the afterlife, but right here on Earth. When Harley propositions Judith, by the way, Smollett-Bell’s eye twitches in the most absurd way possible. It may be worth the price of admission alone.
Brice is a good guy, and their relationship – for all its flaws – would be the envy of any human being on the planet, except for his strange “lights off, only on the bed, except for my birthday” policy about sexual congress. Judith is jeopardizing a good thing, but the film’s attempts to transform her into both a monster and a pathetic victim for caving in to an understandable sexual instinct – Tyler Perry’s real temptation being chiseled abs, apparently, and not the female form (he films shoes more erotically than his female cast members) – is the sort of dichotomy that’s inherently laughable in every frame. Also inherently laughable is the extreme fragility of windows, which have a tendency to break whenever something dramatic is going on, and the climactic age makeup that implies the framing device takes place decades into the future, where everyone looks exactly the same but walks slower and dabbles talcum powder into their scalps, because that’s a fad now.
Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor is the most unintentionally hilarious motion picture since Tyler Perry starred in Alex Cross. There’s no reason why it shoudn’t be embraced by bad movie enthusiasts the world over: it’s absolutely sincere, making the countless comical moments all the more innocently pleasurable. Personally I can’t wait to see it again, but then again I’m a connoisseur of crap. So is Tyler Perry, obviously, although in his case it appears to have been an accident.
William Bibbiani is the editor of CraveOnline's Film Channel, co-host of The B-Movies Podcast, co-star of The Trailer Hitch, and the writer of The Test of Time. Follow him on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.