family-that-preys_web.jpgAnother year, another Tyler Perry movie.  It wasn’t too long ago (Meet the Browns) that I was saying that Perry needed to commit to a new formula of film making.  The underdog woman getting the hard-to-get man was cute, but it got old after a few years.  Imagine my delight to find out that no one in The Family That Preys is looking for love, just power and wealth.

There are so many good points to this movie, I hardly know where to begin.  The story begins with the wedding of Andrea (Sanaa Lathan) and Chris (Rockmond Dunbar).  Everything is beautiful and delicate, except for Andrea’s hideous wedding dress that was once her mother’s.

We speed four years into the future and Andrea and Chris have a child together.  They both work for Cartwright Construction; Chris as a construction worker and Andrea as an accountant. Their marriage is obviously strained.

Other subplots include Alice Pratt (Alfred Woodard) and Charlotte Cartwright (Kathy Bates) as best friends on a Thelma & Louise-like road trip.  Andrea’s sister Pam (Taraji Henson) is married to Chris’ best friend Ben (Perry); the couple is living comfortably, having just paid off their debt.  William Cartwright (Cole Hauser) and his wife, Jillian (Kadee Strickland), are happy on the outside, but William is cheating with Andrea behind closed doors.

Screenwriter Perry weaved an intricate plot with weighty characters.  I applaud his sense of drama, which was light soap operatic and heavy in morality.  As a director, Perry made sure that the audience either loved or loathed each character.  His “first shall be last and last shall be first” approach is what makes this film a Christian movie, at its core.  This is Perry’s best film, yet.

Be sure to look out for the film’s most entertaining scenes: Charlotte and Alice visit a strip club where Alice throws anointed oil on a stripper and Chris back slaps Andrea across a counter (yes, a counter!)

Robin Givens plays Abigail Dexter, hired as Chief Operating Officer of Cartwright Construction by matriarch Charlotte to make sure her son, William, doesn’t run the company into the dirt.  I actually like Givens’ character.  Strickland is actually likable, too, as the wife being cheated on.  Robin, the receptionist (Kaira Whitehead) knows everything that’s going on and lets the right people know.  Whitehead first appeared in Perry’s Why Did I Get Married as a scheming baby mama. 

Woodard, an Academy Award nominee, is always overlooked as a powerful actress.  Her saintly Alice is preachy, but not in an annoying way.  Bates’ Charlotte is everyone’s best friend.  She has an enormous amount of money, but it lies in the shadow of her passion, fire, kind heart and realness.  She guzzles liquor, but looks stylish doing so.  Speaking of stylish, costume designer Keith Lewis made every woman in this film look great.

Lathan as the scheming Andrea is stuck up and stuck on herself.  She treats everyone (including her husband) like garbage; except Michael, whom she admires. 
Lathan isn’t a stranger to being the antagonist, but her Andrea is a scary breed of woman.  She’s successful because of her scheming and conniving; the type of woman whose perception of happiness is taking it from someone else. 

Henson’s Pam is real and refreshing.  She’s angry, but for all the right reasons.  It’s nice to see Henson as a character with more depth to her than her bust size.  Dunbar and Perry as the dynamic duo Chris and Ben are the perfect match. 

Hauser plays a different kind of role.  Not in the sense that he’s playing an antagonist.  He’s been that before.  I just never would have cast him in this film.  At first, he seems out of place, but he redeems himself quite nicely.

I could go on and on about how great the cast is in this film, but that’s not all I enjoyed.  I love the story.  I love the outfits. I love the shoes.  I love the characters.  I love the scenic locations.  I love the power plays.  And, I love the way things come full circle in the end. 

At the heart of Perry’s work, there’s always an underdog story that encourages the masses.  I, for one, was encouraged leaving the theater.  Once again, Perry has committed to excellence and made a great movie.