“Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds” arrived in theaters last Friday but like many of Perry’s previous projects was not screened in advance for critics.
Perry wrote, directed and stars in this film about a successful man named Deeds who eventually becomes good. Hence, the unsubtle, off-putting title. Like many of Perry’s previous films, the story’s message are so obvious they undercut the film’s potential.
The film begins with Wesley Deeds (Perry) leading an ordinary, forgettable life. His fiancé even mocks him for his lack of surprises. In what is a Hollywood cliché that should be extinct, she states what he’s going to say before he says it. In other words, he’s as predictable as the plot of a Tyler Perry movie.
After a single mother named Lindsey (Thandie Newton) parks in his spot, Deeds becomes noticeably upset. But when he discovers that she left her young daughter in the car while she went to an appointment, he becomes more interested in the woman’s plight. Getting to know Lindsey convinces him to change his ways, in part, to improve her life as well.
It should be noted that Lindsey has all of the problems in the world thrown at her at once. Only in a Perry film would a woman get evicted, robbed, have her paycheck reduced by the IRS and get her car towed in less than 24 hours. I, for one, would hate to be a character in a Tyler Perry movie.
Like previous Perry projects, “Good Deeds” has a noble heart. It features a positive message about kindness and generosity. I can understand why Perry’s fans are attracted to these uplifting stories. Many of them feature people in tough times who are able to turn things around.
The problem is that Perry’s films are often so clichéd and predictable they drown out their positive messages. A cookie-cutter message with a Hallmark-style format are enough for some audiences, but these simple stories can’t satisfyingly sustain a feature-length film.
But unlike some of Perry’s other work, “Good Deeds” has a few political references in it–some for both the Left and the Right. For one, Deeds notes that he has succeeded — in part — by the power of affirmative action. On the other hand, his company thrived because he bought out smaller businesses, made them bigger and then sold them at a profit. He’s like Mitt Romney without the cool hair.
But overall, this story is an utterly forgettable tale about a man searching for what really makes him happy. The highlight for me was watching Phylicia Rashad play Deed’s compelling but villainous mother. The erstwhile Mrs. Cosby is wonderful in the role. If only the movie measured up.
I’m okay with Deeds becoming good, but I wanted his journey to be more interesting than what Perry offers up in “Good Deeds.”