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G.I. Joe: Retaliation

Tyler Perry’s Temptation

April 5, 2013

G.I. Joe: Retaliation (**) PG 13

When it was announced early last summer that the new G.I. Joe film would not be making its proposed June release date and would instead be unleashed on the public in March of 2013, I let out a collective sigh of relief. The official word was that the film had to be reformatted/converted for a 3-D release. Of course, most of us know the reason for this would be to give the studio an opportunity to maximize the amount of money they could squeeze from the movie-going public. Had the film been released last June, that would have meant that two months in a row we would have had films in megaplexes based on products from the Hasbro line of toys, with the mega-dud Battleship having been released in May. I won’t go into a diatribe about how wrong it looks to see a title card on a movie screen announcing that the film you are watching is ‘presented by Hasbro’ because that’s a subject for another time and/or column. What I will say is that for a film based on such a flimsy concept as a line of toys originally made famous in the 1960s, G.I. Joe: Retribution is better than it has any right to be, but that’s faint praise. To be sure, the film keeps itself firmly rooted in the style of current action movies by giving us action at the expense of depth of character, but I suppose that’s to be expected these days in films of this genre. What matters is that there are just enough wildly implausible stunts/set pieces to keep the viewer from losing interest during the proceedings and the whole endeavor moves along at a pretty decent clip, which is about the most you could hope for when going to see a film with G.I. Joe in the title.

Channing Tatum returns here as Duke, his character from the first film. He’s about the only thing returning as this film sports a new director, John M. Chu (Step Up) and new writers, Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (Zombieland).

G.I. Joe: Channing Tatum & Dwayne Johnson

Tatum doesn’t have nearly as much screen time this time around as the action centers mostly on Duke’s second in command, Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson). Roadblock’s job is to find out who ordered an ambush on Duke’s platoon, which occurs not long after the film opens. Of course, if you know anything about the G.I. Joe universe you know right off the bat that the criminal organization Cobra has something to do with it. Roadblock’s task is to round up the remaining Joes who weren’t caught up in the ambush in order to stand up against Cobra and find out who was behind the attack. This is where Bruce Willis steps in as a retired general that Roadblock recruits to help put the pieces together and figure out who is setting up whom.

The action set pieces are mostly well done and I suppose the intended audience for this type of film will mainly be pleased in terms of what director Chu accomplishes in the way of generic thrills, assuming that’s all they are looking for. The problem I had with G.I. Joe: Retaliation was simply that there wasn’t one character in the thing I cared about. We know little to nothing about these people and therefore we have no emotional investment. If a character dies then the prevailing sentiment is ‘so what?’ That’s the problem with too many films like this and there seems to be no end in sight. I keep hoping Hollywood execs will learn that empathy with the characters is a trademark of a good film. For now, however, we’ll just have to deal with the likes of G.I. Joe or give up action films for the foreseeable future. Come to think of it, maybe that’s not the worst thing that could happen.

Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions Of A Marriage Counselor (**) PG 13

The title of Tyler Perry’s latest film project and the third since last July, Temptation, was curious one. It had me wondering that perhaps the title was referring to a professional crisis for the prolific writer-director-producer and that maybe he was finally being creatively tempted to give us the non-Medea film we’ve been hoping for, one that doesn’t pander to its audience, doesn’t preach and, most of all, has more nuance than say, a Smokey and the Bandit film. Unfortunately, that’s not what Temptation is. What it is is a parable on the evils inherent in everyday life that conspire to break apart seemingly happy marriages. As in most Tyler Perry films, there are no grey areas to be found. His point of view seems to be that if a marriage is in trouble then the problem must be in the form of someone in the union getting some action on the side. 

Those in the audience who have suffered through horrible marriages will beg to differ. They know all too well that the reasons for the dissolution of a marriage cannot be narrowed down to one specific issue in about the amount of time it would take finish a can of soda. Then again, there’s something more than a bit suspicious about Perry having written and directed a film about marriage yet never actually having been married. Go figure.

The film is framed around the device of a troubled couple in therapy listening to their counselor relate the tale of her sister, Judith (Jurnee Smolett-Bell) and her childhood sweetheart, Brice (Lance Gross).

Jones & Smolett-Bell in Temptation

 In flashback, Judith and Brice marry right out of high school and, after college graduation, make the move to Washington D.C. to kick their respective careers into high gear.  Brice has his eye on making a living as a pharmacist, while Judith wants to own her own practice as a counselor. In the meantime, Judith finds herself stuck in a meaningless job at a high-end matchmaking service that services elite clientele. Her patience is tested daily by her empty headed, fashion conscious co-worker (Kim Kardashian, obviously a victim of stunt casting and essentially playing herself) and an annoying boss (Vanessa Williams) who comes complete with a faux French accent and a penchant for young guys.

Brice has been so consumed with getting his career on track that he’s started to take Judith for granted, forgetting her birthday and such. When Harley (Robbie Jones), a wealthy creator of some sort of social networking site along the lines of Classmates, comes along singing his song to Judith, everyone in the audience knows it’s only a matter of time before she gives into his charms. Thankfully, this is all revealed in an over-the-top final act that lifts the picture out of the doldrums that it wallows in during its first hour or so. The film then proceeds to wrap things up in a neat little bow that doesn’t feel organic but then what could one possibly expect from a film that also uses homosexuality as the basis for much of its humor and exploits HIV as a plot device.

Temptation isn’t the worst in Tyler Perry’s catalog of films but it’s hard to say it’s a good film. Some of the acting is decent, most notably, Gross and Smollett-Bell as the two leads. The trouble is that I’m not really sure that Perry has a truly great film in him unless he is willing to allow himself to stretch as a filmmaker. Temptation shows some growth on a technical level but on a creative level it belongs just a hair above most of his other work. Maybe Temptation is the best we can hope for where Tyler Perry is concerned.

Both of these movies are playing at the Carmike in Hickory.

Questions or comments? - email Adam Long at filmfan1970@hotmail.com

 

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