A Madea Family Funeral
Cast: Tyler Perry, Patrice Lovely, Cassi Davis, Rome Flynn
It’s finally over! Tyler Perry has decided to put Madea (and us) out of her miserable existence, (supposedly) retiring his boisterous, gun-toting senior citizen alter ego.
Almost every year since debuting in “Diary of a Mad Black Woman” in 2005, Madea, aka Mabel Simmons – a probably well-meaning but quite unorthodox social misfit – has appeared in 10 movies (11 if you count Madea’s cameo in “Meet the Browns” of 2008).
And from the very beginning, it’s been plainly clear that Madea films probably work much better as the stage plays on which many of them are loosely based. Although the franchise’s many fans will undoubtedly disagree, the movie versions have ranged in quality from completely awful to just tolerable/watchable. But they’ve never ever been very good.
Perhaps the least ridiculous of the lot was that original film. Written and produced by Perry, like all of his movies, “Diary of a Mad Black Woman”, ironically, was the only one he didn’t direct.
However, even that film bore the trademark challenge with this entire series. That bizarre mix of broad comedy and sappy melodrama form an unhappy and uneasy union. The tackling of serious issues like spousal abuse or rape, spliced with Perry’s cross-dressing as Madea and playing her bizarre and creepy geriatric siblings, is jarring and awkward.
Now, after seeing Madea deal with family reunions, jail time, witness protection, Christmas and Halloween (twice!), for this final edition we get to see “A Madea Family Funeral”.
A joyous reunion in small-town Georgia turns into an unexpected nightmare when Madea, Joe, Aunt Bam and Hattie and other family members gather for an anniversary party that turns out to be a sham. Instead of fun and relaxation, Madea and the gang soon find themselves attending an elaborate funeral that doesn’t quite go according to plan.
It’s not the first time a funeral has been the setting for a comedy, and won’t be the last. Death, and the way we sometimes deal with it, can be amusing.
But “A Madea Family Funeral” is barely about the actual (and quite unfunny) funeral. It mainly focuses on all the nonsensical love entanglements of members of a dysfunctional family before and after the funeral. With a plot reminiscent of the wacky storylines that were partly responsible for the demise of most of those daytime soaps, this family drama would be more at home on one of the soapy primetime series Perry cranks out for Oprah’s OWN network. In fact, quite a few of those cast members show up here. The storyline is weak and sophomoric, and has no business in a theatrical release of 2019.
But that’s the least of the problems. At the core of the issues is Madea herself and her merry band of buffoons. Like a Greek chorus, Madea, her friends and her Perry-played siblings insert asinine comments after nearly every “dramatic revelation”.
The overall effect can be likened to an aspiring comedian (as in a horrible comic) being hired to emcee a surgical procedure. Or picture three to five of the Minions from “Despicable Me” tasked with giving colorful commentary in a junior high school production of “Romeo and Juliet”.
Process that nightmare for a moment. Or worse yet, live it with “A Madea Family Funeral”.
Yes, you may be saying, ‘Not everything has to be highbrow’, and ‘This isn’t supposed to be Shakespeare’ and ‘Just chill out bro, this is Tyler Perry and Madea, what were you expecting?’
And sure, nobody is looking for this to be an Oscar-worthy picture. But if one is being honest, this movie fails at everything it tries to be. It’s bad at drama, and below juvenile and repetitive at its attempts at “comedy”.
Years ago, there was a persistent rumor that Perry was considering killing off Madea with this finale. As that hasn’t come to pass, I suspect that at some point in the future, Madea will make some grand return.
I can’t say I’m exactly looking forward to that possibility. But for now, Madea will give us a break and silence her potty mouth. And for that, again I say, “Halleluyerr! Halleluyerr! Halleluyerr!”
• Dwight Strachan is the host/producer of “Morning Blend” on Guardian Radio and station manager. He is a television producer and writer, and an avid TV history and film buff. Email [email protected] and follow him on twitter @morningblend969.