Tyler Perry discovers his inner preacher in "Tyler Perry's Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor," the story of a small-town Christian woman who moves to the big city and strays outside her marriage. Despite the bared flesh visible on its posters, "Temptation" is not a steamy melodrama but a jowl-shaking Sunday-school lecture on the perils of sex and the wages of sin. If you've ever sat through one of those, you might remember your reaction: chuckles, eye rolling and utter boredom.
Our heroine is Judith (Jurnee Smollett-Bell, of NBC's "Friday Night Lights"), a Southern girl now living in Washington, D.C., and married to her childhood sweetheart, Brice Morton (Lance Gross). Judith wants to be a marriage counselor -- irony duly noted -- but ends up becoming the in-house therapist at a high-class matchmaking service. It's not the most plausible-sounding job, but that's how she meets handsome Internet millionaire Harley Madison (Robbie Jones), who sweeps her off her feet and into his Rolls-Royce.
Initially, "Temptation" plays like a domestic instruction manual along the lines of Perry's "Why Did I Get Married?" films, with Brice as the no-no example of a husband: forgetful, inattentive, boring in bed. But Perry is not in a forgiving mood this time. Judith ignores her Bible-thumping mother (Ella Joyce) and delves right into adultery, material greed and the demon cocaine. Perry piles so much sin atop Judith that there's nowhere for her, or the movie, to go but down. A little levity comes from Kim Kardashian, amusingly cast as Judith's fashionista frenemy and handmaiden to hell.
"Temptation" has the usual weaknesses of a Perry movie -- artless dialogue, pokey pacing, exasperating plot contrivances -- but what sinks it is his unusually judgmental attitude. If Perry has had one strength as a dramatist, it's been his willingness to empathize with villains as well as victims. In "Temptation," he lacks even that.
PLOT A married Christian woman develops a taste for sin.RATING PG-13 (drug use, sexual themes)
CAST Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Lance Gross, Robbie Jones
BOTTOM LINE Sex, drugs and violence, but absolutely no fun in this finger-wagging morality tale from an unusually dour Perry.