Kathy Bates (left) and Alfre Woodard help steer new Tyler Perry vehicle.
TYLER PERRY'S THE FAMILY THAT PREYS (Tyler Perry). 111 minutes. Opens Friday (September 12). Rating: NN
The Family That Preys has more tact and insight about matters of class and race than you would expect from the man who brought you Madea, the pistol-packing mammy.
It's a variation on Imitation Of Life, tracking two generations of relationships across cultural lines. But it's still a Tyler Perry movie, which means we get an ebony soap opera populated by characters who are either saintly or so domestically evil that they're aching for a smack-down.
Charlotte (Kathy Bates), a wealthy Southern socialite, is best friend to working-class Bible-thumper Alice (Alfre Woodard). In stark contrast are their venomous children, who are waist deep in a destructive extra-marital affair.
The film lacks focus and finds cheap ways to cue emotions. But give Perry credit for delivering some intense and hilarious standoffs between Alice's social-climbing daughter and some sistas who ain't having it, where everybody's lips snarl and eyes roll like turnstiles.