A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that, like most Tyler Perry movies, The Family That Preys is a dramedy that focuses on mature themes surrounding race, class, marriage, and family. It's considerably less joke-filled than his previous work, and there's very little strong language ("bastard" is the harshest word, and it's only said once). There are two violent scenes, but only one is notably disturbing -- a husband strikes his wife. There are several allusions to an extramarital affair, but only one scene in which the couple embraces/kisses. Otherwise, the sexuality is limited to a few kisses between married couples. Most of the commercialism involves the fancy cars that some of the characters drive.
What's the story?
Tyler Perry once again tackles issues of race, class, faith, and marriage in his dramedy THE FAMILY THAT PREYS. At the film's core is the lifelong friendship between wealthy businesswoman Charlotte Cartwright (Kathy Bates) and working-class diner owner Alice (Alfre Woodard). The story begins at Alice's youngest daughter Andrea's (Sanaa Lathan) elegant wedding, which Charlotte generously hosts. Charlotte's son William (Cole Hauser) offers the bride and groom jobs at his family's lucrative real-estate development firm; after that, the action fast forwards four years. Charlotte and Alice go on cross-country road trip (a la Oprah Winfrey and her best friend Gayle), while at home, a long-term affair between Andrea and William threatens to devastate both families.
Is it any good?
Perry's films have a loyal audience, but this one is a step above his prior work and could expand his audience to viewers who weren't already interested in his Madea comedies. By splitting the story in two -- the rock-steady friendship between Charlotte and Alice, versus their children's destructive entanglements -- Perry lightens the predictable melodrama of the younger generation with the matriarchs' trip of a lifetime in The Family That Preys.
It's a tribute to Perry's reputation that despite lukewarm reviews, his films have successfully attracted more and more top-notch ensembles. Bates and Woodard have a natural rhythm as best friends. Lathan, who's incredibly talented, is perfect as an educated social climber who can't stand her husband or family. She and Woodard have mastered playing mother and daughter (this is their third time) so well that they should be cast as a team. All of the finely crafted performances outshine Perry's overly obvious "lessons" and clichéd plot devices. (Though if you hold on through the end credits, you'll be treated to Gladys Knight's excellent rendition of Lee Ann Womack's "I Hope You Dance," the soundtrack's most significant anthem.)
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about The Family That Preys' messages. What points does Perry emphasize in his movies?
Class doesn't seem to be an issue between wealthy Charlotte and working-class Alice, but in what other relationships are money and entitlement a problem?
Nick tells Pam that Alice is a saint. How is she depicted as the movie's most virtuous character? How is her daughter Andrea portrayed?
Perry's movies have been compared to morality plays. Do the overt messages to be honest, hardworking, faithful, etc. take away from or add to the film's entertainment value?