The best thing that can be said about Tyler Perry’s oeuvre is that he’s provided work for a great deal of underused, under recognized African American actresses. Alfre Woodard, Taraji P. Henson, Phylicia Rashad, Anika Noni Rose, Cicely Tyson, etc. have all enjoyed roles that, for the most part, deviate from the Maids and Down On Their Luck Single Moms that populate other Hollywood mainstream films. No, it’s not great work, all of these women deserve better than the stilted dialogue and uninspired plots of even the non-Madea films. But it is work. So the best thing that can be said about Tyler Perry’s most recent offering, the very dull Good Deeds, is that it allows the luminous Thandie Newton an opportunity to shine. And shine she does. Until, of course, we’re supposed to believe she’s at all interested in Tyler Perry’s Wesley Deeds, an achingly boring executive. Newton, who blazed so beautifully in 1998’s Beloved, has been on simmer ever since. Even in her most recognizable role as Terrence Howard’s volatile wife in Crash, Newton has yet to match the fire she showed so early on. In this film we see sparks and flares of her impressive talent. It’s a pity the movie and Perry aren’t worthy.
In his first leading role without the Madea wig, Perry plays a straight-laced, well-to-do yuppie who, after he meets Newton’s Lindsey (who is, fine, both a Maid and a Down On Her Luck Single Mom) realizes that his buttoned-up, passionless life needs shaking up. So, you see, the whole familiar plot hinges on the idea that the chemistry between these two is so potent that Deeds is willing to change his whole life and ditch his very comely fiancee (a completely wasted Gabrielle Union) to pursue Lindsey. Unfortunately, Perry plays one dour note throughout the entire film. And though Perry wisely surrounded himself with some significant talent (including Phylicia Rashad as his cold, distant mother and Brian White as Perry’s black sheep brother), none of them are able to inject any life into their ridiculously cliched dialogue and equally predictable plot lines. How boring is it? At one point I started to wish Madea would make an appearance. Exactly.
And, because this is a Tyler Perry joint, we’re treated not only to his subpar writing, but his completely uninspired directing. There is some serious Hallmark Hall Of Fame level of talent happening here and this, this is the number one purveyor of African American talent? This man, who’s slapped his name across every project until he’s more of a brand than an artist, is the best we’ve got? No, no way. I’m sick and tired of year after year of this uninspired bullish*t. I demand Spike Lee work more. Nice try with Red Tails, George Lucas, but something tells me that story deserved better than Hollywood’s biggest sell-out. Many congratulations and accolades to Octavia Spencer and hisses for Viola Davis’s loss but, seriously, at the end of the day, despite those two stellar performances,The Help was a hypocritical, smug, racist film. A huge quivering slice of sh*t pie. And Good Deeds? That’s a second helping. So no, don’t see it. Rent i>Pariah instead. It’ll go down easier.