Tyler Perry's The Family That Preys



Message-heavy dramedy features fine performances.
  • Review Date: September 12, 2008
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2008
  • Running Time: 111 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The film's messages are clear: Stay loyal to your friends, don't disrespect your family, don't cheat because it always ends badly, and don't give up your dreams. An interracial relationship is depicted negatively, but that's because it's extramarital.


A husband strikes his wife in the face after she insults him and admits to having an affair; he later grabs the other man and holds his body over a ledge. A character purposely overdoses (off screen) on prescription medication.


Couples embrace and kiss, including a man and a woman who are having an affair. The affair is discussed by various characters.


Fairly mild; language includes "bastard," "piss," and "colored woman" (said jokingly by an African-American woman).


Featured brands include Mercedes, Porsche, Coke, and Dasani water. The song "I Hope You Dance" is prominently mentioned in the film, instead of just being on the soundtrack. Oprah Winfrey's roadtrip with her friend Gayle is Charlotte and Alice's inspiration.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Characters say "I need a drink" or "get me to a bar" a few times; wedding guests drink cocktails; Charlotte gets drunk doing tequila shots and orders mixed drinks on the road trip.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that, like most Tyler Perry movies, this dramedy 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.

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.)

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the film's 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?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:September 12, 2008
DVD release date:January 12, 2009
Cast:Alfre Woodard, Kathy Bates, Sanaa Lathan
Director:Tyler Perry
Run time:111 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:thematic material, sexual references and brief violence.

This review of Tyler Perry's The Family That Preys was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Kid, 12 years old April 19, 2011
This was a really good movie. It shows how affairs can be bad and affect your family. There was two bad parts were a man hits his wife in the face when he finds out she's having an affair and then threatens to throw the man she cheating with down a ledge. 9+
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Teen, 13 years old Written bygrandcoughtarkin April 9, 2010
a fine movie
What other families should know
Too much violence
Great messages
Great role models
Kid, 12 years old December 20, 2009
This movie is good but not the best Tlyer Perry movie.Some things are a little iffy for kids younger that 12.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Great messages


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Star Wars Guide