Directed by: Tyler Perry
Cast: Tyler Perry, Thandie Newton, Brian Tyler, Gabrielle Union
Running Time: 1 hr 51 mins
Release Date: February 24, 2012
PLOT: A successful CEO named Wesley Deeds (Perry) reaches out to a single mother (Newton) who works as a janitor in his building.
WHO’S IT FOR? As many of his films are, this is for Tyler Perry devotees only. Acceptance of his previous trash is required so as not to laugh at his recent misfire. Outsiders to Perry will be snickering to themselves throughout the entirety of Good Deeds.
Tyler Perry is a terrible actor, a terrible director, and a terrible writer. Of course this isn’t breaking news, but it’s a statement bound to bounce around anyone’s head while trying to suffer through his very bad Good Deeds. While wearing all of these job caps, ones that many filmmakers actually take seriously, Perry displays his disdain towards any type of craft, while parading how far into the bank he can take such laziness. If he could shoot his flat dramas in 3D, I’m sure he would. But then again, he’d actually have to learn something.
For an “auteur” who is consistently providing product of his namesake to his massive niche audience, Tyler Perry is an inept filmmaker who refuses to learn. His stories are always drawn out with cheap conventions; they always find ways to make fluffy sermons seem heavy-handed. Even his adaptation, For Colored Girls, showed that he couldn’t make a serious drama, because the way he molds “real events” of “real human beings” is extremely laughable. His work could never even stand as allegorical, for it has no deep value at all.
One of the more surprising features about Good Deeds is that it doesn’t feature a trademark Perry melodramatic left turn – one that steers the story’s events so sharply it could cut someone in half. No one is suddenly hit by a car, or thrown out of a window, etc. It’s now come to this in Perry criticism, where we can be glad he doesn’t completely try to destroy the believability of his story, and still have us look into his waste.
That’s where any sense of comfort with Good Deeds dies, however. Even the film’s title beckons to cheesiness that would get laughed out of a Hallmark card aisle. Perry’s character is named Wesley Deeds, and in the movie he does … good deeds. Yikes. He based an entire character’s name around a simple phrase. And stands by that title on a shining poster.
Good Deeds finally proves the extreme weakness of Tyler Perry the actor. He doesn’t have the hammy make-up of his reoccurring character Madea to allow him to chew up scenery by simply doing an impersonation, and improvising. Having to stick to his own script, (Ha, how’s your dialogue taste now, Tyler!) and even work in a couple dramatic scenes, he falters to ever be a commanding presence, or even one to take seriously. It’s almost like he seems scared to be in front of the camera, delivering much of his dialogue as if he had just woken up. His opening voiceover, which is heard as we watch him shower, is below something expected from the Lifetime channel.
Second, there’s Perry’s directorial skills, which start at being able to ruin decent actors like Thandie Newton and Gabrielle Union, and then saying “Action.” Good Deeds is full of ugly camerawork, such as when he puts two characters on very opposite sides of the frame, leaving an artless amount of empty space between them. In other occasions, he’ll abuse the length of a shot to have the action play out, despite what little is going on in the frame. This is a common technique in movies such as this, especially by filmmakers who annually produce movies, but Perry has nothing interesting going on in any of visual statements. Woody Allen, he absolutely, definitely, will never be.
Even the location shots, which is a task that any tourist with a camera can pull off for their home movies, are goofed-up by awkward zooms and lack of immediate focus. He also has no problem in cutting from a scene with almost all black to a blinding shot of the San Francisco skyline and its very white buildings.
The length of many scenes within Good Deeds strongly suggest that he has no idea how “editing” is meant to actually benefit a film. Extremely simple interactions between characters slug away for minutes upon minutes. The same can be said for some of his montages, which add more weight to Good Deeds like an overly long song does in a Bollywood movie. Perry uses editing as a device to encourage people to refill their popcorn, go outside, or Madea forbid, text.
Perry’s laziness might shine the worst with his writing, which is so full of cliches it should be considered an insult. He uses the locations of an airport and an airplane as the final moment in which two characters are reunited (and you can guess which characters), and then even equates a low point in one’s life to a childhood story about drowning.
In classic Perry fashion, he doesn’t care about the implausibilities of certain actions within a story, but just of the face value. His character Wesley is thus turned into a “Perry Godmother” who makes the stupidest of events happen, simply because he has a lot of money. And even when he tries to tell audience members that a child day care center could just grow from the ground, or that tickets to Africa just appear (without any consideration for passports), he becomes indifferent about convincing us of these events. It just is.
I’m convinced that Tyler Perry has started to become more active with his disdain towards an audience’s desire for quality. How else to explain the “serious” montage that uses Richard Marx’s “Right Here Waiting for You” as its centerpiece song? Or the moment in which Tyler Perry looks towards the camera and says, “I’m the old white man,” and then smiles?
From what I can tell, having been into the Perry trenches more than most people should (and possibly even more than other movie critics, as his films are never pre-screened), his movies are mostly about having the right attitude. This could not come from a more hypocritical person, especially when he dares to play a character who is applauded for his “hard work.” Perry the “filmmaker” preaches greediness with laziness, despite whatever his characters might learn in his stories. He has found a way to scam viewers like any televangelist, but by actually using fictional stories to hawk the same type trash.
Money talks, sure, as Perry is still the leading man behind his self-worshiping multi-million dollar empire. He will keep making his terrible, terrible movies, and it’s doubtful he will ever look back to improve any of the skills that hundreds of thousands of people work hard at each day. In his world he may be God, but in the film world, he’s probably the antichrist.
FINAL SCORE: 1/10