Actor-director-mogul Tyler Perry didn’t come to preside over a vast media empire by paying much heed to the tastes of critics. His 10 feature-film releases to date – churned out over an eight-year span – have drawn mostly jeers from reviewers with his Madea comedies starring Perry in drag as a tough-talking southern matriarch singled out for special scorn. His latest effort the romantic drama Good Deeds isn’t likely to change many minds but it’s not for lack of effort from co-star Thandie Newton whose performance a struggling single mother stands out amidst the film’s otherwise crudely wrought melodrama.
Trading his Madea getup for the less-familiar guise of a leading man Perry stars as Wesley Deeds the scion of a wealthy family and whose lofty expectations have begun to wear on him. Beneath his sheen of polished affluence exists a man who draws little satisfaction from running Deeds Inc. the software giant his father built and who tires of shouldering the demands of his overbearing mother (Phylicia Rashad) the burden of his bellicose and oft-intoxicated bother (Brian White) and the monotony of his loveless engagement to his similarly well-bred fiancé Natalie (Gabrielle Union).
Trapped in a stultifying routine seemingly mapped out for him at birth Wesley longs to escape his gilded prison and trek across Africa on a Harley digging wells with his college buddies. Seriously that’s his dream: digging wells on a Harley.
Situated firmly on the opposite end of the socio-economic spectrum is Lindsey (Newton). Left alone to provide for her daughter after the death of her soldier husband in Iraq she has little time for fanciful visions of Harley-riding and well-digging. She’s too busy trying in vain to make ends meet as a janitor at … you guessed it: Deeds Inc. Despite her lowly status Lindsey clings fiercely to her independence which places her in stark contrast to Wesley.
Fate all but demands that Wesley and Lindsey make a match but not before their respective plights are established – and re-established – over a prolonged and laborious set-up that drowns in tedious exposition. (The majority of the dialogue in Good Deeds is devoted to affirming the obvious.) The desperate nature of Lindsey’s situation in particular is driven home with wearisome repetition in scene after scene depicting her various indignities suffered at the hands of the System. Newton an actress of impressive range and dexterity brings dignity and pathos to a role that probably asks too much of her.
A more efficient filmmaker might have trimmed a half-hour from Good Deeds’ first half without compromising its story one iota but then again that would only hasten the descent into soap-opera hysterics that marks the film’s second half.
The potential exists in Good Deeds for a thoughtful examination of class divisions within the African-American community – a topic that Perry who rose from poverty to become Hollywood’s highest-paid entertainer is uniquely equipped to explore – but what we get instead is an overwrought hybrid of aristocratic melodrama and How Wesley Got His Groove Back.
An artless aesthetic and narrative inconsistencies attest to the hastiness of the film’s assembly. In one scene Natalie’s flamboyantly effeminate male friend (played inexplicably by comedian Jamie Kennedy) complains that she’s never even mentioned her fiancé let alone introduced them. Yet when he encounters Wesley in quite literally the next scene they appear as if longtime acquaintances. It’s a problem that could have been easily fixed by a quick re-shoot or two but I suspect Perry was already too preoccupied with work on The Marriage Counselor – arriving in theaters less than six months from now – to bother with them if he worried about the issue at all. And if he doesn’t care then why should we?
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Comic actor Gene Wilder, who lost wife Gilda Radner to cancer in 1989, is now battling the disease himself.
Wilder, 64, is being treated at Manhattan Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. "He was diagnosed last year with lymphoma. He was successfully treated and is in remission. He is now being treated...to prevent recurrence,'' the clinic said, adding that it would be providing no further information at this time.
The star of 1970s comedies "Blazing Saddles" and "Young Frankenstein" opened Gilda's Club, a support center for cancer patients and their families, in 1993 in memory of third wife Radner, one of the original cast members of "Saturday Night Live." Wilder has since remarried.
'TODAY' ... OR NOT: Madonna's interview with NBC's "Today" host Matt Lauer was canceled Wednesday -- by Lauer, who waited two hours in a hotel suite while Madonna did other interviews, according to the New York Post.
The interview with the singer-actress, who was promoting her upcoming film "The Next Best Thing," was scheduled for 4 p.m., then pushed back to 5:30. Lauer showed up on time with an expensive production crew. But by 7:10 p.m., Lauer left, saying "I didn't think it was unreasonable to leave," he says. "I had other things to do."
Madonna's rep, Liz Rosenberg, explains: "Madonna did 65 interviews that day ... Unfortunately the 'Today' show was going to be the finale, because wanted to give them as much time as possible." She says the chat will be rescheduled when Madonna comes to town for the film's premiere Feb. 29. A "Today" rep says Madonna sent Lauer an "enormous and beautiful" bouquet of flowers as a conciliatory gesture."
QUICK TAKES: Rosie O'Donnell is the hostess with the mostest. On top of adopting her third child, Blake Christopher, last month, she agreed to return as host of the Grammy Awards Jan. 23 in Los Angeles. Now comes word that she'll return for a third go-around hosting the 54th Annual Tony Awards, which will take place June 4 at New York's Radio City Music Hall ...
... When Gary Coleman was bankrupt, he made a plea via the Internet for some cash. Now UGO Networks (www.ugo.com), which organized a Web-a-thon for the 31-year-old actor, has given him a job as a columnist. The weekly gig, entitled Coleman Confidential, will feature reviews and interviews ...
... Pamelyn Ferdin, who provided the voice of Lucy in the animated "Peanuts" specials of the 1970s, was sentenced Tuesday in Los Angeles to 30 days in jail. It was not for snatching the football away before Charlie Brown could kick it, but for carrying a "bull hook" during an elephant-rights protest at a circus. Ferdin, 39, was carrying the object -- a wooden rod with a hook at the end, used by elephant trainers -- as an educational tool, but a local ordinance bars protesters from carrying large wooden sticks ...
... It looks like a Baby Scotty for "Star Trek" actor James Doohan, 79, and wife Wende, 43, who are expecting a daughter in April, according to London's Daily Star.
RUMOR ROUNDUP: Britain's Empire Online reports that model Elizabeth Hurley will finally wed her boyfriend of 12 years, Hugh Grant, in the spring. A friend reportedly confides, "As their relationship has normally been splendid they didn't want to spoil it with something they regard as so trivial as a marriage ceremony ... but lately they've been talking about a lovely spring wedding." ...
... Actress Sadie Frost ("Bram Stoker's Dracula") was reportedly visiting husband Jude Law ("The Talented Mr. Ripley") in Berlin when she was stuck in the elevator of the apartment building they were staying in. Frost sounded an alarm, and when police and fire department showed up, they demanded to see her passport and ID papers. Not believing her explanation that they were in the apartment, she was taken to jail, where she was refused food and water, she told the British Star. "When they eventually let me make a call, only one, they deliberately cut me off just as I got connected to Jude. I was then left in the cells until 8:30 a.m. when I was released without charge, or a word of apology," she reportedly said. Cops in Berlin released a statement to Fashion Wire Daily saying she "was under the influence of alcohol." ...
... According to the Edmonton Sun, MTV's Tom Green, who hosts his own gross-out comedy show, is reportedly dating none other than Monica Lewinsky. Pause. We're just gonna stop there, because we're afraid to make any further remark on this matter.