Genre: Drama Director: Tyler Perry Cast: Tyler Perry, Thandie Newton, Brian White, Rebecca Romijn, Jamie Kennedy, Gabrielle Union, Eddie Cibrian, Jordenn Thompson RunTime: 1 hr 50 mins Rating: NC-16 (Sexual Scene) Released By: Cathay-Keris Films Official Website: http://www.gooddeedsmovie.com/ Opening Day:28 June 2012
Synopsis: A successful, wealthy businessman, Wesley Deeds (Tyler Perry) has always done what’s expected of him, whether it’s assuming the helm of his father’s company, tolerating his brother’s misbehaviour at the office or planning to marry his beautiful but restless fiancée, Natalie (Gabrielle Union). But Wesley is jolted out of his predictable routine when he meets Lindsey (Thandie Newton), a down-on-her-luck single mother who works on the cleaning crew in his office building. When he offers to help her get back on her feet, the chance encounter with someone so far outside his usual circle ignites something in Wesley. This one good deed may finally spark his courage to exchange the life that’s expected of him for the life he’s always really wanted.
Owing to their racial specificity, Tyler Perry’s movies don’t often make it to our shores, let alone enjoy a release on the big screen- but for the uninitiated, the one-man writer, producer and director dynamo has made a name for himself among African-American audiences with his cross-dressing character called Madea. ‘Good Deeds’ doesn’t see him in drag, and continues his streak (that began with ‘For Colored Girls) of diversifying from his comedic roots to more serious territory, so don’t go in expecting much mirth.
Instead, the titular character- once again played by Perry- is a middle-aged man who’s somewhat stuck in a midlife crisis. Many may envy Wesley Deeds, but the CEO of a successful software business which he inherited from his father wants more than just wealth and status. Not only has his life become routine and monotonous, he has to look after his brother Walter (Brian White)- otherwise known as the black sheep of the family for his brash and irresponsible ways- and contend with an overbearing matriarch of a mother, Wilimena (Phylicia Rashad).
So when a straight-talking woman Lindsey (Thandie Newton) stumbles into his life like a gust of fresh air, he develops a predictable affinity for her, beginning with a casual conversation after hours and progressing to supper dates with her and her little daughter (Jordenn Thompson). Of course Lindsey isn’t your average office worker too- on the contrary, the single mother had recently been evicted from her rented apartment and is now working double shifts as a janitor at his office.
Though from different worlds- Deeds born and raised with a silver spoon in his mouth; while Lindsey born and bred in a working-class neighbourhood- the connection between them feels genuine. While Perry’s turn as Deeds is hardly a stretch for any actor, he brings a pleasant low-key charm to his character that complements the fiery yet nuanced turn by Newton. The role certainly calls for it, but Newton’s firecracker performance is nonetheless compelling to watch, and she is easily the very energy that sustains the otherwise slackly-paced movie.
Yes, if Perry isn’t particularly outstanding as an actor, he’s definitely not any better as either a writer or a director. The scenarios are hardly surprising, and the dialogue just as perfunctory- perhaps the best thing you could say about his writing is how he doesn’t turn Wesley’s fiancée, Natalie (Gabrielle Union), into some sort of a bitch vis-à-vis Lindsey. His direction is equally uninspired, going from scene to scene with little modulation in terms of both the tempo and the tone of the narrative.
But those interested to check out how the new iteration of ‘Alex Cross’ from the James Patterson novels can still give this a try- despite its obvious flaws, ‘Good Deeds’ remains watchable thanks to the earnest chemistry between Perry and Newton. The supporting performances by the primarily African-American cast are also just as stellar, especially Rashad’s scene-stealing cameo as the head of the Deeds family. It’s a pity then that the material fails to live up to the performances, even if Perry is probably the only filmmaker in Hollywood who has as much creative license to make movies directed at the African-American community- and even if his deeds are less than good, his intentions of being the voice of the community are most definitely laudable.
(Good to great performances can’t lift up this otherwise dull and perfunctory feel-good African-American drama from one-man dynamo Tyler Perry)