About Features Reviews Community Screenings Videos Studios Home
September 2008

by Wilson Morales


Distributor: Lions Gate Films
Director: Tyler Perry
Producers: Tyler Perry, Reuben Cannon
Co-Producers: Roger Bobb, Joe Grainger
Screenwriter: Tyler Perry
Composer: Aaron Zigman
Cast: Kathy Bates, Alfre Woodward, Tyler Perry, Cole Hauser, Sanaa Lathan, Rockmond Dunbar, Taraji P. Henson, Kadee Strickland, Sebastian Siegel, Robin Givens



When Tyler Perry decides to do a film, the question we ask ourselves is whether or not it will better than his last one. How good of a soap opera will this film be and who gets to stand on top at the end? At the end of the film, is the message spelled out that we can leave with good thoughts or do we want our money back? With a cast that includes himself, Sanaa Lathan, Taraji P. Henson, Robin Givens, Rockmund Dunbar, and Alfre Woodard, the ingredients are in place; and to add some spice, i.e. Caucasians, Perry has brought in Kathy Bates, Cole Hauser and Kadee Strictland. A bit slow paced, Perry nevertheless, has proven once again how good of a storyteller he is with ‘The Family That Preys’. Let’s face it; he’s not looking to change the world folks. In most of his films, there’s someone cheating, someone who is abusive, and the hard working common man is never good enough for the leading lady. He simply wants to entertain you while adding on some spiritual messages in between the predictable fable.

Academy Award winner Kathy Bates and Academy Award nominee Alfre Woodard star as the matriarchs of two very different families being torn apart by greed and scandal. Set in the South, the film starts off with the wedding of Andrea (Lathan), Alice’s younger daughter to construction worker Chris (Dunbar) at the estate of her Alice’s longtime friend, Charlotte Cartwright (Bates). Things look good at the wedding when Andrea catches up with William, Charlotte’s son, and he offers to help her land a job after she finishes school and Chris a job in construction.

A few years later, Andrea is a very successful accountant at the Cartwright firm, while Chris is a construction worker along with Ben (Perry), Pam’s husband and Andrea’s brother-in-law. Andrea’s ego has inflated to the point where she tells Chris he will never be good enough to be a Cartwright and run his own business, which he is eager to start. It also seems that Pam and Andrea don’t get along well as they are constantly at each other’s throats and in the presence of Alice. Meanwhile, William is having issues at home when Charlotte appoints a new employee (Givens) as COO, a job and title William feels is rightfully his. While Alice and Charlotte are traveling cross county ‘Thelma and Louise’ style, mayhem breaks looks back home as the secret extramarital affair between Andrea and William is uncovered. When the matriarchs return home, each has the put out the fires that their kids have caused.

Most of his fans would agree that when he leaves ‘Madea’ off the page, Perry is a better writer, actor, and director. Just like his last non-Madea film, ‘Why Did I Get Married?’ Perry can write good parts and get excellent performances from his actors and actresses. Perry also shows that a married couple can have an argument and resolve the situation without going to extremes. For Sanaa Lathan, it’s good to see her play something opposite that being the good girl. She’s just as evil as Tasha Smith was in ‘Daddy’s Little Girls’. Henson plays her role with gusto as the no-nonsense wife and sister. Not all sisters get along well in real life and Perry has a scene in the film that many will probably relate with. As good as it is to see Givens back on the screen, her performance was bit resigned. From Shemar Moore in ‘Diary of a Mad Black Woman’ to Idris Elba in ‘Daddy’s Little Girls’ and now to Rockmond Dunbar in this film, Perry loves to showcase that a hard working man can be a good role model, but not for the woman who may have more money.

The weakest point of the film comes when he spends too much time on the relationship between Bates and Woodward’s characters. It involves a subplot that steers away from the main story. This is where the preachy part of the film comes in and feels heavy handed. Nevertheless, the rest of the film, however predicable, holds for good drama. This is a story that has a universal theme and you’ll have pleasant time watching ‘The Family That Preys’.