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Last week's Defamer survey of the Tyler Perry phenomenon wasn't intended as some jokey, indulgent irony OD at your expense. Gayfaced frock-rocking aside, his quarter-billion dollar (and counting) film franchise is built on plots, subplots and unapologetic throwbacks to the golden age of melodrama, and now, with his fantastically perverse The Family That Preys, the critical culture from which Perry has long shielded his films before release is finally coming around. Preys currently has a 54% positive rating at Rotten Tomatoes, and we're especially fond of Bob Baker's "memo" to Perry published today in the LA Times:

Dude, what made you refuse to screen your film for critics before it opened Friday? I'm betting you would have received an earful of praise for your writing and directing.

Praise for the sweet relationship between Alfre Woodard and Kathy Bates as mothers occasionally shamed by their children. Praise for making venality your dominant theme without falling into the ditch of soap opera. Praise for constructing characters whose yearning for more rings true. Praise for integrating your cast without using race as a crutch. (You're forgiven for the moment when Woodard, as Alice, the owner of a struggling diner, sees the new car that Bates's Charlotte, a wealthy matriarch, has bought and says: "I never saw you drive. Where's Morgan Freeman?")

A few other critics have swatted it down for its pulpy, melodramatic machinations, but that's the point — that's the fun of it! Anyway, we'll find out soon enough if Perry comes around; his third film in 12 months, Madea Goes to Jail, opens Feb. 20, 2009. For all that preaching of forgiveness on which his empire's built, we hope he can find it in his heart to at least think about kicking us a DVD screener by Feb. 19.

[Rotten Tomatoes]