Director/Writer/Actor and, yes, even Producer Tyler Perry’s bold voyage into big screen entertainment from on-stage, live presentations has been a, for the most part decent yet shaky at times, transition. Some of his early films have all had the same concept. Good female hurt by “unbelievable a-hole” male finds hope in finding a good man again with help from family, friends and Mable Simmons (Madea). With one exception, “Why Did I Get Married?”, this had four sets of couples with problems instead of just one. These movies did have their positive messages with many laughs in between, most of which came from Madea, but this film was much different.
“The Family that Preys” released in 2008, has Mr. Perry tackling an entirely new genre of family drama. In my opinion, a very well executed tackle. With established stars such Kathy Bates (Misery, The Golden Compass), Alfre Woodard (Radio), Sanaa Latham (Love & Basketball, Brown Sugar), Taraji P. Henson (I Can Do Bad All By Myself, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) and Cole Hauser (2 Fast 2 Furious, The Break-Up) along with Tyler Perry himself ( almost all of his previous films) just to name a few. This is the most star-studded film Perry has put out. Robin Givens and Rockmond Dunbar are also included in this epic which seems ready to overflow with drama.
Ok, so here we go, this is truly a juicy one for those of you who love gossip and scandal. Alfre Woodard and Kathy Bates play Alice and Charlotte who are best friends who come from different worlds. Alice is a hard working, middle-class, God-faring woman who runs her own diner with the help of her younger daughter, Pam (Tariji P. Henson). Charlotte is the CEO of a successful construction firm who has been through 3 marriages and is just a tad bit wilder than Alice but they get along great nonetheless. Andrea (Sanaa Latham), Alice’s older daughter has just been married to Chris (Rockmond Dunbar) at the beginning of the movie. She’s very well educated having gone to Ivy League schools that her mother worked very hard to put her through. Chris, on the other hand is neither as educated nor comfortable in the professional world. Charlotte’s son, William, works in her firm and has made quite a wealthy life for himself, his wife and son. He offers both of them jobs to start as soon as they return from their honeymoon.
The film then fast forwards four years in the future to find Andrea and Chris with a four-year old son and living very well due to Andrea’s position as a finance executive and Chris as a construction worker, both in the same firm owned by Charlotte. Andrea brings home the majority of the bacon, however, and it can be easily interpreted that she is not very happy in her marriage and life with Chris. She acts snotty very unthankful to her mother and sister, Pam, who is married to Ben (Tyler Perry) who also works construction alongside Chris at what is called the Cartwright firm.
The portrayals of these characters are done very well by the actors. In Williams’ home, there is some apparent love there between him and his wife but you can tell there is apprehension and tension, especially by his wife played by Kadee Strickland who has a feeling he is not being completely honest with her about his life and career. She presents a very strong and supporting character as Cole Hauser’s wife despite her misgivings about him. Those misgivings stemming from William’s on-going extra-marital affair with Andrea. Hauser’s character is very conceited and wants to be on top (no pun intended), especially of his mother’s firm, but this goal is stifled when she hires someone else, a woman, to take the position he so coveted. Ms. Latham is in a role different than other ones she has played; she’s never been the bad guy, the “bitch” so to speak but does a decent job. Taraji P. Henson, beautiful as usual, puts in good work as her “good head on her shoulder, no B.S. sister”. The best on screen chemistry in the film is that between Alice and Charlotte. Very hard not to believe they are the model for BFF’s everywhere, especially when one reveals a serious secret about themselves to her dear friend. An absolute wonderment when they are together.
Except for their lingering secret, the two of them are the only non-scandal drama entity contained in this film. Between the cold shouldering done by Andrea towards her family and husband, her affair with William, his confused, suspecting wife, practically everyone at their office knowing their sexy little secret except their spouses and everything in between, soap opera with some good heartedness on the big screen is the result.
Excellently written by Mr. Perry, this is his best work yet. Sometimes the trailer of a movie builds it up so much, it falls off that false foundation and crashes straight through the box office floor. Not the case with this one. Good acting, except maybe some over cockiness on the part of Cole Hauser, as in 2 Fast 2 Furious, some funny moments, great script and lots of beautiful women, and yeah, ok, for you ladies there’s some guys in it too, I guess. A well finished product that earns “3.5 gasps out of 5” from me. With the drama in this one, you’ll be gasping quite a bit before it’s over. “It is sisters like you that give us all a bad name”