Thursday, June 7, 2012

Good Deeds

Directed by Tyler Perry.
2012. Rated PG-13, 110 minutes.
Tyler Perry
Thandie Newton
Gabrielle Union
Brian White
Phylicia Rashad
Eddie Cibrian
Jordenn Thompson
Beverly Johnson
Rebecca Romijn

Jamie Kennedy

Life is perfect for Wesley Deeds (Perry), or so it seems. He’s the CEO of a very successful company, drives a Porsche and is the apple of his mother’s eye. He’s also engaged to the beautiful Natalie (Union). The only hiccups are he works long hours and his brother Walter (White) is a jerk, feeling slighted by their deceased father who willed Wesley the company’s top spot. For Lindsey (Newton), things aren’t going quite so well. She’s the single mom of a six year old girl. Early on, they get evicted from their apartment. She can’t afford to pay rent because the IRS is garnishing her wages. With no other options, Lindsey and her daughter sleep in their car. That is, they sleep there after mom’s shift as a night janitor. Why yes, silly, she works for Wesley’s company. And yes, she finds herself cleaning his office while he’s there working late. If you don’t know where this is going you should crawl out from under your rock every once in a while.

In what’s become a pattern for writer, director and, in this case, leading man Tyler Perry, in between Madea movies he doesn’t go for laughs. It’s a welcome development, a much needed reprieve for those of us who’ve grown to despise the loud-mouthed, pistol-packin’ grandma. People who love her tend to also love anything Perry does so no problems on that front, either. Both sides might be pleasantly surprised that this is just a plain ol’ fashioned boy meets girl. As such, Good Deeds plays it totally straight. There are no extraneous buffoons hanging around nor a collection of outwardly evil men to get us all riled up. For the most part, this film is populated by “just” people.

As a romance, Good Deeds is a lukewarm affair. It plays things safe to the point of unrelenting predictability. The irony is that Wesley's fiancee spends much of the movie lamenting him for the same thing, being bland with all the spontaneity of clockwork. For both the movie and the character, our leading man is much the blame. One of Perry's great strengths is getting strong performances from his cast. However, the one actor he has the most trouble with is himself. As Madea, or anyone which requires him to physically disappear into them as much as possible, he's a bundle of hyperkinetic energy. With his own face in plain view he's exceedingly bland. His Wesley Deeds is no exception. Unfortunately, this means he doesn't generate any sparks with either Union or Newton. It doesn't help that the character is written as an impossibly good person. There is no edge to him whatsoever. His inevitable break-up is of the most cordial kind imaginable. Even his one "rebellious" fantasy is Mother Teresa-esque.

The movie is at its most passionate when it turns its eye toward the subplot of Walter being mad at the world, including his own mother played by a steely-eyed Phylicia Rashad. Too bad these are both completely one dimensional characters with a story that goes nowhere. However, they do provide us with plenty of melodramatic fireworks whenever they share a scene. White's is an angry, guttural performance of material that doesn't allow him to be anything more.

Whenever our focus is on Mr. Deeds (yes, I'm fully aware of what I did, there) and the triangle that forms around him, we simply barrel downhill until we reach the inevitable conclusion. It does so in a mostly unremarkable fashion that makes this hard to love, or hate. There are some touching scenes involving Wesley, Lindsey and her daughter Ariel (Thompson). There are some horrible scenes and transitions where things just happen too easily. However, the bulk of it is merely average.

MY SCORE: 5/10

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