The 40th anniversary of Vianne and Anthony (Jen Harper and Derek Morgan) is a time for celebration and all their children are coming home to help them celebrate. Oldest son A.J. and his wife Carol (Courtney Burrell and KJ Smith) are hosting the party. Youngest son Jessie (Rome Flynn) and daughter Sylvia (Ciera Peyton) are on hand as well. A.J. and Carol are having problems in their marriage and A.J. is cheating on her with Jessie’s fiancé Gia (Aeriel Miranda). While A.J. and Gia are at a nearby motel, A.J. hears a familiar voice in the room next door. Barging in the door, A.J. finds his father Anthony in bed with Renee (Quin Walters), a family friend. Also showing up to see the sorted scene are Madea, Joe, Bryan (all played by Tyler Perry), Aunt Bam (Cassi Davis) and Hattie (Patrice Lovely). Anthony and Renee are having a S&M scene when Anthony has a heart attack and later dies at the hospital. The anniversary party is now a funeral being planned by Madea. With all the secrets threatening to pull the family apart, Madea and the rest of the older mourners are trying to lighten the mood and keep the emotional volcano from exploding.
“Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral” (which I’m choosing to shorten to “Family Funeral” for most future references) is my first experience with a Madea film. I thought since Perry announced this would be the final Madea movie I should check it out and I’m half glad I did. Half glad as this film is really two movies: One is the family drama of cheating and lies and love. The second is every scene Madea and all the older characters are in. One is significantly better than the other.
The melodrama that makes up the bulk of the film is awful. A bit of trivia posted on the movie’s IMDb page, and repeated on the film’s Wikipedia page, says it was shot in about a week. I couldn’t find any other sources to verify that, but the threadbare script and soap opera-style acting would imply there weren’t many takes wasted to make the movie. Most of the dialog involving the family at the center of the story consists of one of the following: “Are you alright?” “What’s wrong?” “My daddy just died!” While Tyler Perry’s movies have never been accused of being complex or subtle, it feels like he has just given up in “Family Funeral.”
Perry was busy on the film as he plays four characters, directs, produces and wrote the script. Maybe he has finally taken on too many jobs in his film as “Family Funeral” is a schizophrenic mess, jumping from dealing with loss and betrayal to ribald comedy fast enough to cause audience-wide whiplash.
Yet the audience I saw it with, comprised mainly of African-Americans, loved ever second of it. There were raucous laughs at the antics of Madea, Bam and Hattie (often covering up the next joke), disapproving comments about revelations of infidelity, and appreciative nods to the impressive gospel singers shown at the funeral. The about-half-full theater with whom I saw the film was hanging on every word, ready to laugh or cry, depending on which direction the story went.
Should you decide to see “Family Funeral,” I suggest viewing it with a sizable crowd. The experience will be heightened if you are surrounded by people willing to forgive the film’s flaws and enjoy the final ride with Madea.
The best part of the film is Madea and the rest of the incorrigible senior citizens. There’s talk of pimpin’ ho’s, smoking weed, killing husbands with anti-freeze, peeing every mile on a car trip, geriatric sexuality, expressing religious beliefs by misquoting the Bible, and jokes at the expense of a man with no legs and using a voice modulator after cancer surgery. The humor in “Family Funeral” also comes from all those that know the circumstances of Anthony’s death not being able to keep their mouth’s shut, yet none of the younger family members or his wife ever asks any follow up questions when Madea or the others say something that screams for it. It’s the kind of slapstick silliness that doesn’t get made by Hollywood movies anymore. I believe the reason for that is no one really knows how to do it anymore. Tyler Perry is a kind of throwback filmmaker. He knows his audience and plays to their tastes: Family drama and old people punching each other in the face. It’s a formula that has made Perry a very wealthy man (estimated net worth of $600-million). Few have homed in on the likes and wants of their fans the way Perry has, and it has served him, and his bank account, well.
“Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral” is rated PG-13 for crude sexual content, language, and drug references throughout. There is much discussion of the erection Anthony has that persists after death. There is also talk of him choking on a ball gag. Various characters make sexual comments throughout the film. No drugs are shown being used, but there is a great deal of discussion about cannabis and its use. Foul language is scattered, but the film does use it’s one ratings-allowed “F-bomb.”
As I write this, “Family Funeral” had a 25% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 41 on Metacritic. I can’t argue with either score as the film as a whole is not very good. Wooden acting, a repetitive script and leaden pacing all add up to this being a bad film. However, seeing Perry in Madea drag, and all the other elderly characters, say incredibly inappropriate things at the most inappropriate times redeems the movie for me. I may have to go back into the Madea catalog and check out her other adventures while fast-forwarding through the parts that are supposed to be telling the story. Madea is what we all see these films for. The rest is just filler to reach a feature film’s run time.
“Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral” gets three stars out of five.
There’s only one new movie opening this week.
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