Tyler Perry has taken a tiny step backwards with The Family That Preys. I thought he turned the corner with Why Did I Get Married, but his latest movie shows that he still relies heavily on the mainstays of his filmmaking style: melodrama and one-dimensional characters. Having said that, I still found The Family That Preys to be an entertaining movie, but it simply is not up to snuff in comparison with most other dramatic movies. I think the title is clever, but I can’t say the same about the actual film. I respect Perry’s Hollywood hustle, and the man is clearly at the top of his game in terms of financial success. He also seems like a genuinely nice guy, which is why I hate to find fault with his movies…but hey, it is what it is. Spike Lee, he’s not. Not saying he has to be or should try to be…I’m just sayin.’
Regarding The Family That Preys, Perry assembles a very good cast, comprised most notably of Kathy Bates (Misery-sorry it’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of her, admit it!) and Alfre Woodard (Something New). They turn in fine performances, and I was particularly impressed with Bates, mainly because her character was the only one that wasn’t totally flat. Bates portrays Charlotte Cartwright, a wealthy magnanimous CEO and best friend to Woodard’s character, Alice Pratt. The movie opens with the wedding of Alice’s daughter Andrea, played by Sanaa Lathan (Something New). Charlotte is footing the bill for the wedding, and it is here we are introduced to the main players, including Charlotte’s son William (Cole Hauser, Higher Learning). Upon their first meeting, William and Andrea share an awkward exchange, with William suggestively telling Andrea to come see him about a job. Cut to four years later, and it’s obvious that the two are sleeping together. Andrea is a total bitch to everyone around her, especially her devoted husband, played by Rockmond Dunbar. I like to call her the dream crusher. She is belittling and mean-spirited to the point of absurdity. Once again Perry goes overboard. In a way, I feel like he’s trying to dumb it down. Does he think that his audience won’t be able to appreciate subtlety? Whatever the reason, the movie felt very implausible and contrived. I will give Perry credit for his depiction of the friendship between Charlotte and Alice. It was a warm and caring friendship that came across as authentic. Both actresses showed their pedigree, and I wish the rest of the cast had the opportunity to do the same. Overall, the quality of the storyline was comparable to what you’d see on daytime TV, and it was very predictable. I’m glad the brother is doing well, but there is always room for improvement and I hope Tyler Perry continues to evolve as a filmmaker.