A Madea Family Funeral
Well, if you came this far there’s really no turning back now. We got through without a scratch during the early days of “Diary of a Mad Black Woman,” Madea’s Family Reunion,” and “Meet the Browns.” There was a very endearing quality to the character of “Madea” (Tyler Perry) that we could all vibe with.
I’ve got some always kooky, most times crazy family members of my own. The uncle that has 1 maybe 2 screws loose. The crazy aunt that we all believe has killed several people, but we still love her. The loose cousin. The stealing cousin. The comically drug riddled cousin; and the cousin that’s all the above. Yeah, we all got one; or seven and that’s what made Madea such an infectious part of the early 2000’s black theater experience. It was outlandish representation that we all appreciated even though it may have reinforced negative stereotypes, but that’s really a conversation for another day.
Then, we got “Madea Goes to Jail,” “Madea’s Big Happy Family,” and “Boo! A Madea Halloween.” So, at this point Madea is now a kin to the Jim Varney classics” Ernest- Insert Bad Movie Title Here”. Madea has grown bigger than every premise she’s in, and what was set out to be a ruckus comedic ensemble turnout morphed into the “Madea Variety Show” starring Madea as a man, Madea as Tyler Perry, Pretty Black Person #1, Shirtless Ripped Black Guy #2, and Patrice Lovely as Ms.Hattie.
“A Madea Family Funeral” is no different!
This movie focuses on what is described to be a joyous reunion in small-town Georgia. There’s definitely a stark contrast between the movie theater standee that depicts the large cast having a real good time that unfortunately never translated onto the big screen. Well, that supposed good time turns into an unexpected nightmare when Madea, Joe, Aunt Bam, Ms. Hattie and other family members gather for an anniversary party that turns out to be a sham.
On its face the celebration of Black love is a vital theme throughout the movie. However, what we get is all the complication black lovers go through stemming from distrust, being dishonorable, or just putting on a brave face even when things are at their worse. Instead of fun and relaxation, Madea and the gang soon find themselves attending an elaborate funeral that doesn't quite go according to plan.
You can kind of get the idea where I’m going with this review and it’s unfortunate. I mean, a man did die so I want to be delicate, then again Tyler Perry himself doesn’t handle this narrative with much care himself.
Look, I like Tyler Perry. Shoot, I love Tyler Perry. His life and story is amazing and a testament to passion and ingenuity in the face of insurmountable odds stacked up against you. The idea of Tyler Perry is awesome. What he does for other creators, and performers, and the Black Entertainment industry is worthy of our adoration. However, when it comes to his most Iconic character we must dissect a few things. In regard to “A Madea Family Funeral” its timely that this is his reported last time he’ll bring the titular hero to the big screen, because it was done so very unceremoniously.
There was a missed opportunity to construct a story wildly unique that honors what we love about Madea while sending her off to her grave instead of some throwaway character we can’t remember the name of. Madea works. She along with her other costumed compatriots is about the only thing that does work and only for ½ the time. It’s the motley crew of Joe, a new character Uncle Heathrow, Aunt Bam, and Ms.Hattie that make this movie digestible. Damn, can I just stop here and say how much I love Patrice Lovely. Ms. Hattie is as loveable and downright crazy as Madea and she’s worked in every movie she’s been in. There’s a real commitment to the character, great timing and is the true stand out performance in this movie for me.
Now some would say even with that bunch the movie doesn’t shape up to be great, but I couldn’t help to laugh and when I did, really hard too. I’d be interested to know how Tyler Perry crafted several of the scenes in the movie as the free-flowing comedy seemed to be more improvised than written. There’s nothing wrong with that except you tend to end up with an uneven product when more than half your cast can not only live up to your comedic chops, but doesn’t know what movie they’re in. That’s where the direction in this movie suffers the most, or lack thereof.
The rest of the cast is taking themselves entirely too seriously as if they’re stuck in a bad black drama. This is not a bad Black Drama. This is a bad Black Comedy. There is a difference and you don’t want to be the first! None of the actors can elevate the script to that effect or in any redeeming way that saves the story at all.
Back to the story.
We don’t have a plot that lends itself to developing character arcs or anything close to it. This movie was an extra-long sitcom episode. It’s not all that original and the comedy all stems from the dead uncle’s hidden life of debaucheries. This film had an Opportunity to be “Death at a Funeral” with Madea but couldn’t stick the landing. We have intersecting side stories of brothers sharing the same love for a young woman while one of them is engaged to her and the other is also already married. We have a rather useless and gratuitous appearance by David Otunga as, well I can’t remember his name. He’s pretty much “Shirtless Ripped Black guy #1 and feels so out of place in this movie. His timing was off, delivery was flat, but gosh you must feel for the guy after being divorced by Jennifer Hudson. A lot of the supporting characters out of costume and make up are very much forgettable and just further reinforce Tyler Perry’s proclivity for putting together the most pretty black cast that aren’t that good.
That’s mean. These actors I’m sure are fine but what they’re being asked to do, and the end result is not a great showing. But, “Madea Movies” are for a specific crowd and if I can say anything, they make lots of money. Tyler Perry ain’t no fool. While ill criticize this man for not growing as a director and delivering very lazy productions, he’s a box office dynamo and his name will get butts in seats. They definitely came out to support in the Staged Theater circuit and that’s continued on to the big screen.
While the Non-Madea movies don’t seem to be as much of the box office smashes without Madea attached to them there’s hope to see if Tyler Perry going forward will be inspired to create a new dynamic character or way to tell stories of the Black Experience with nuance, reverence and not have that be sacrificed for the sake of cheap comedy.
“A Madea Family Funeral” is a sometimes laugh out loud B-level Tyler Perry movie that unceremoniously fails to celebrate the ending of an era with a poorly written, directed and acted hot mess that works because we’ve already bought in and, LIKE I SAID; there’s no turning back.
KOLBYTOLDME RATING- 5/10
Director: Tyler Perry
Writers: Tyler Perry
Starring: Tyler Perry, Cassi Davis, Patrice Lovely
Run Time: 109 mins