“Family That Preys”

Family That Preys

By Jae-Ha Kim
September 12, 2008

Tyler Perry’s latest film The Family That Preys tackles the soap opera style lives of two families led by a pair of best friend matriarchs.

Alfre Woodard is Alice Pratt, a modest woman who owns a small, homey diner. Kathy Bates is Charlotte Cartwright, the much-divorced board member of a top corporation founded by one of her husbands.  Viewers are asked to suspend their beliefs in reality that this mismatched pair from different socioeconomic, moral, and ethnic backgrounds could have enough in common to put up with each other, much less be best friends. And yet in his homespun way, writer-director Perry–who also has a small role in the film–makes it work.

As with many of Perry’s films, there is a strong sense of good vs. evil: Here, Charlotte’s inept son William (Cole Hauser) meets his match in Alice’s social climbing daughter Andrea (Sanaa Lathan). Viewers can understand that William didn’t fall far from the self-centered tree, but it’s not clear how Andrea became the way she is–or why she chose to marry an honest, working class man for whom she has nothing but contempt.  In context of this film, the plot is inconsequential compared to the chemistry shared by Woodard and Bates, who could probably make a reading of the telephone book compelling. Both are believable–even Bates in her over-the-top role.

“My family has been known to prey on the weak,” Charlotte says, in what could be the movie’s biggest understatement.

And for Perry fans who are wondering, no, his tell-it-like-it-is granny Madea makes no appearance in this picture.


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