Cinema Dispatch: A Madea Family Funeral

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A Madea Family Funeral and all the images you see in this review are owned by Lionsgate

Directed by Tyler Perry

It’s Perry time once again and I COULDN’T BE HAPPIER!!  Oh who am I kidding!?  I cannot keep up the charade any longer!  I am definitely not looking forward to this guy trying to make a movie with nothing more than a living room, a couple costumes, and an absolute disdain for the art of editing.  I’ve had to sit through Boo 1 AND Boo 2 already!  You think I’m proud of that!?  Now we’ve got this movie that he’s claiming will be the last time we see Madea (as bad as these are I STILL want to see a Madea movie where she takes on the alt right and punches Richard Spencer in the face) which would hopefully means it’s a culmination of everything he’s learned as a filmmakers after all these years, but I think we all know better than to assume he’s thought that far ahead.  Can Tyler Perry send off his signature character with an emotionally satisfying swan song, or is this just like ALL the others which… actually would still be pretty fitting all things considered?  Let’s find out!!

Madea, Joe, Hattie, and Aunt Bam (Tyler Perry, Tyler Perry, Patrice Lovely, and Cassi Davis) are doing their own thing at Brian’s house (Tyler Perry again) but what’s ACTUALLY going on is that one of  Madea’s numerous relatives is having an anniversary party that all the grown kids on that side of the family are preparing for.  We’ve got the couple of the hour Anthony and Vianne (Derek Morgan and Jen Harper), their naïve yet good hearted son Jessie with his girlfriend Renee (Rome Flynn and Quin Walters), their older son AJ who’s a Tyler Perry stock villain along with his rich wife Gia (Courtney Burrell and Aeriél Miranda), and their daughter Sylvia with her husband Will (Ciera Payton and David Otunga) who are… just kinda there.  Oh, and also Uncle Heathrow (Tyler Perry AGAIN) who’s the WACKY relative who’s obnoxiously sexist humor everyone just kind of puts up with.  Anyway, while the party is getting ready and Madea and co are on their way, someone dies.  I’m not gonna spoil who, but what this means is that everyone’s gotta plan for a funeral now which involves Madea taking charge and being SUPER WACKY about it while everyone else who’s actually important to the story start to have their secrets bubble to the surface which could tear this entire family apart.  Can Madea pull off a successful funeral with only a minimal amount of mishaps in horror of the recently deceased?  What is everyone in this family hiding, and just how much popcorn should we get to watch it unfold?  Has any else noticed that there’s ALWAYS drama whenever Madea comes around?  It’s like whenever Jessica Fletcher visits a place and someone JUST SO HAPPENS to get murdered, only one of them doesn’t do a darn thing to actually help the situation.

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“Look here!  I’ve got me some drama bombs and I’m not afraid to use them!  I will ruin each one of your lives and make forty million dollars filming it!  DO YOU HEAR ME!?”

The only Madea movies I’ve seen are the two Boo films so I can only imagine that this is what the rest of her movies are like and boy am I glad I skipped over them because this it’s clear that despite this supposedly being his last performance as this character, Tyler Perry did not pull out all the stops to send her out with a bang.  This is yet another half-baked premise with obnoxious characters only without the thin veneer of horror tropes to at least mine a few silly jokes out of which means it’s even LESS interesting than those already boring and quote-unquote PROBLEMATIC spectacles of utter blandness.  Look, I’m not the target audience for these movies so maybe there’s something there that I’m just not getting, but if this is the best that Tyler Perry can do with his flagship character, I say let’s go ahead and bury her once and for all.  Don’t forget to fill the grave with cement, because we don’t want Boo 3: The Madea-ville Horror.

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“Nice place you’ve got here!  Sure would be a shame if someone were to haunt it!”

Alright, let’s not get too hyperbolic here.  After all, it’s always good praxis to try and say something nice before going all in on the negativity so let’s try and find SOMETHING about this movie that isn’t terrible.  First and foremost, I’ll say that Tyler Perry’s character of Brian (the one where he’s more or less playing himself) is SO much more tolerable here than he was in either Boo movies.  Sure, he’s still constantly dogged out by his other selves, but at least he doesn’t sit there and take it this time.  He’s actually stands up for himself a bit more and even throws a few well deserved jabs here and there, so at least he’s not as much of a wet blanket to be around.  The other thing that I kind of liked here was the ACTUAL plot of the movie involving this family with like three different juicy and scandalous secrets under wraps that you KNOW is just gonna explode at some point.  Is it clichéd and histrionic?  Sure, but honestly I’m kind of all here for that and it’s usually the only thing Tyler Perry has some competence in writing.  Alright, that’s all I’ve got.  It’s all downhill from here, so buckle up.

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“Look, if we stick this out we MIGHT be in an Acrimony sequel, then maybe a CW super hero show.”     “Man, it’s almost like actors of color aren’t given enough opportunities in Hollywood which is only helping to prolong the careers of untalented filmmakers who if nothing else provide steady work that we can’t find elsewhere.”     “Yeah, that’s a… comprehensive way of putting it.”

Now this was a LITTLE bit true of the Boo movies (more so the sequel than the first one), but in here there is just no good reason for Madea and her cavalcade of wacky sidekicks to be in the movie.  No joke, there are scenes in this that might as well be from the world’s worst version of Riff Tracks because Madea and co are sitting IN THE SAME ROOM that the plot is going on and they are making snide remakes that are in no way acknowledged by anyone in the scene.  I’m trying to think of another movie that so blatantly shoehorns in comic relief characters and I’m coming up completely short here!  MAYBE wacky animal sidekicks in Disney films but at least those movies don’t pretend they have a legitimate reason to be there.  To a certain extent I do understand Tyler Perry’s decision here in making Madea a wacky Trojan horse to inject his cheesy half-baked dramas, but at least for me the material is not funny enough to carry the film and the story it’s crowding out is far too underdeveloped to carry much weight.  Heck, it’s so underdeveloped that the big blow up in the third act is not precipitated by anything and just kind of happens.  You’d think that as a PROFESSIONAL WRITER that he’d come up with something that instigates the third act instead of one character deciding to just… start it themselves (even if you could argue that character was being self-destructive, we don’t get enough of him being that way for it to NOT feel out of left field) but hey, Joe needs to make a few more jokes about having sex with prostitutes, and there’s no WAY we could cut out any of that gold!  His directing style hasn’t improved either by the way as the scenes with Madea and Friends are not just unfunny but go on WAY too long with these characters just babbling nonsense over and over and over again.  It gets so bad in one scene where there is an EMERGENCY SITUATION but no one can actually deal with it because in order for the scene to work and for these characters to endlessly spout their bad jokes, no one can actually ADDRESS the situation and they just stand there awkwardly instead of doing something useful.  If he had cut ALL of their scenes in half and used that extra time to develop the actual plot of the movie then this might have been somewhat tolerable, but I guess there’s no escaping the monster he created as everyone seems to like her antics way more than anything else he puts on screen.  More Madea equals more money, so why even bother?

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“We’re here to collect our checks and act goofy, and I’m all out of goofy!”

Of course, with any Tyler Perry movie, you’ve also gotta contend with… well the cringy politics of Tyler Perry.  I’ll say this much about the guy; as far as Christian based entertainment goes, he’s PROBABLY the least horrifyingly offensive of the bunch which sounds like damning with faint praise, but good lord does he have a giant moral high ground on the likes of Pure Flix and whoever it was that made that Columbine movie.  Still though, there’s no denying that some of the worst elements of Tyler Perry’s movies are things often seen in those kinds of circles.  The fact that he still thinks gay jokes are funny feels particularly out of place in 2019; not to mention that his brand new dress up character is a legless guy with an Electrolarynx so let’s throw ableism on there as well.  The thing is, and I’m sure people will disagree with me on this, I don’t get the impression that he’s trying to be intentionally hurtful like other Christian based propaganda; he comes off like a guy who just recklessly stumbles into whatever topic he’s discussing and just assumes he’s gonna nail it.  To that end, the one point where I think he manages to at least not come across like a tactless jerk is an overly long scene of his character Brian getting pulled over.  Now just to be clear, this is just from my perspective as a white dude, but I think that he pulls it off at least SOMEWHAT as the humor is very uncomfortable but I think that’s to its benefit as the situation itself is one that shouldn’t be an outright comical farce and should make people feel a bit uneasy about the situation.  Whether or not the topic itself is appropriate even for this kind of humor (especially with how often it happens in the real world with no zero consequences and almost no hope for justice) is a can of worms on its own, but compared to everything else in this movie it at least shows a bit of awareness on Tyler Perry’s part that’s pretty much absent from everything else in the film; a move that is all the MORE surprising considering how much he was all for cops abusing their power in Boo 2.  That said there’s ALSO a scene in the movie where Medea yells at a man with a full beard in a dress and wig; a scene that’s less than ten seconds long, goes absolutely nowhere, and is given no explanation.  Now at first I thought Tyler Perry was just being a transphobic jerk-wad since the person looked like a caricature of a cis male pretending to be a trans woman, but upon further research that character is APPARENTLY an Instagram star known as Joanne the Scammer who I had never heard of and honestly have no idea if there’s more to the performance that makes them not come off as transphobic (she’s a character played by Branden Miller who is a cis gay man), but that’s what I’m talking about when I say that Tyler Perry just kinda stumbles into things.  He bothered to get this person to play their signature character for only a few seconds but without explanation for those of us who may not even know who this character is, so what exactly are we SUPPOSED to think; especially with all the gay jokes AND transphobic jokes (he uses the Madea is a man joke like five times here) that we’ve had to sit through already!?  Tyler Perry likes to think of himself as some sort of moral expert with his movies serving as modern day parables and I WANT to give him perhaps a bit more credit than he deserves (he’s got SO much sympathy for the plight of black women… despite having Mike Tyson of all people make a cameo in the movie), but his understanding of the issues betrays an almost condescending attitude that just makes it still somewhat off putting even when he has a point.

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“Come on, man.  You don’t know what you’re doing!”     “Don’t worry!  I’ve got this!”     “The heck you do!  Remember putting Jamie Kennedy in Good Deeds?”     “Uh…”     “Exactly, now let’s get the heck out of here!”

If I were to give one suggestion for Mr. Perry (a man who’s created a successful empire while I’ve done absolutely nothing with my life!), it’d be to try not to take everything on at once.  There aren’t many filmmakers who can pull of being the actor, writer, director, and producer of a movie; let alone an entire series of movies like he’s done with Madea.  There are a few sparks of inspiration here and there in these movies, but he always seems to get in his own way where a more competent and socially conscious filmmaker could probably bring out the best in him and his characters.  Then again, I’m not the one making boatloads of cash making terrible movies over and over again, so what do I know?  Well I know this movie is terrible and I wouldn’t recommend any of you to go see it, but that’s about it.  He’s said this is the last Madea movie, but I don’t think that’s the case.  There’s no sense of finality to it which indicates that he’s leaving the door WAY the heck open for him to bring her back if need be, but if he does stick to his word than I’d certainly be happy at least because despite finding SMALL moments of humor and enjoyable drama in these movies, they are always an awkward and unpleasant experience.  There’s certainly a case to be made that Tyler Perry being one of the most visible black auteurs out there making films for an audience that I am not a part of should net him at least a bit of slack from critics like myself, but even with a reasonable amount of the benefit of the doubt, he still squanders it more often than not with this movie being one of the worst examples of that.  Now if he DOES bring Madea back, I have an idea that I’m sure he’ll be all over.  Are you ready?  Tyler Perry’s New Nightmare.  Boom.  That’s a billion dollars’ worth of genius I’m giving him FOR FREE.

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