What Will it Take for Tyler Perry to Catch a Break from Film Critics?

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Tyler Perry

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Tyler Perry

Although most will agree that Tyler Perry has had a Midas touch with his movie empire, he still can't seem to catch a break where it regards his filmmaking acumen. Despite his success and prominence in Hollywood, critics and moviegoers alike continue to find fault with his attempts at big screen drama. Several theories have been rolled around. And his latest cinematic foray, "Good Deeds" appears to be taking quite a lashing from some critics. They've found all sorts of distracting flukes---things that have actually been previously addressed in his other movies. What would it take for Perry to be seen as a more formidable director?

Use more "unknown" actors.

Sure, we love Gabrielle Union, Janet Jackson, Blair Underwood and Malik Yoba. We've come to expect certain things from a flamboyant cast of Hollywood super powers. But utilizing the skills of more up-and-coming actors (especially those of color) might give him more room to "play" on screen.

Dive more deeply into the lives of Middle America.

For all intents and purposes, the "Madea" creator has been praised for his depiction of people of color. While many of his characters (like "Good Deeds" protagonist Wesley Deeds) are extremely successful, he also introduces others who embody the people we see everyday. The problem according to critics is that those characters are often presented in a skewed, one-dimensional light. Certainly in the world there are janitors who are as beautiful and kind-hearted as Thandie Newton in "Good Deeds." But unlike in real life, where people and their actions are frequently unpredictable, Perry has created a world in which the characters operate by a distinct formula.

Get creative with production design.

In fairness, not all the responses about "Good Deeds" have been poor. But even the Boston Herald, which printed a glowing review---couldn't escape mentioning the "made-for-cable" production appeal of Perry's previous films. For example, in the Sam Mendes-directed , "Revolutionary Road" one scene is bathed with the "otherworldly light of summer dusk" in order to highlight the dark place at which the married couple (Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio) have arrived. Some of the greatest films use subtlest of tricks like these to get viewers to feel what their characters are feeling. Tyler Perry's productions tend to be clean and (in the opinions of critics)---a bit too clinical to be considered authentic. Thinking outside the proverbial box to implement some creative filming strategies might loosen up his storylines and get viewers more involved.

Explore other themes (or at least explore them differently).

Religion, broken romances, and family drama are heavy recurring themes in Tyler Perry's works. In a time where the general public could use some spiritual and emotional stroking, this may not be seen as a bad thing. But it might behoove the director to dive into some territory that doesn't sugarcoat some of life's hard truths. Yes, movie watchers love a happy ending. But they also love stories that reflect the way real people respond to those hard truths. Often times, it's not so pretty. Would we have believed Patricia and Gavin's (Janet Jackson and Malik Yoba in "Why Did I Get Married?") broken marriage if it had played out more like the one in "Blue Valentine"? Perhaps. But even though the two scenarios are different entirely, one can see the impact that subtlety has on cinema's trickiest themes.

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