Directed by Tyler Perry, Written by Tyler Perry, 106 minutes, Rated PG-13.
By our guest blogger, Matthew Schimkowitz
“Madea’s Big Happy Family” is the 10th film directed by Tyler Perry and the 23rd he’s written. Outside of his popular series of films, the man has built himself an empire of DVDs, stage plays, and two sit-coms. It’s with this knowledge that two conclusions can be drawn: 1) Tyler Perry is a forward-thinking, experimental filmmaker, who has no interest in the conventions of modern, commercial cinema; or 2) He has never seen a movie before in his life.
“Madea’s Big Happy Family” is a mess on all fronts. Perry exaggerates every laugh, cry and moment in his latest “Madea” film, creating a variety of tonal shifts that not only unglue his overall point, but also make it a chore to endure. His jokes are dull, his drama is redundant, and his messages range from the corny to the downright offensive.
Shirley (Loretta Devine) has one dying wish--she wants to bring her dysfunctional family together for one more family dinner. However, her self-involved kids won’t let her get a word out. Byron (Bow Wow), Shirley’s youngest, just got out of prison, has a gold-digging girlfriend who requests he get back into dealing, and fights with his irritating baby momma incessantly about overdue child’s support. Meanwhile, her eldest children, Tammy and Kimberly (Natalie Desselle and Shannon Kane), both have marital problems. Apparently, demeaning their spineless husbands is more important than their obviously sick mother.
So, Shirley does what any woman would do--she calls in Madea (Perry), the wisecracking Deus Ex Machina with enough mouth to fix any problem.
Perry’s message is a strange one and Madea’s solutions support this. She solves Tammy’s disobedient child problems with corporal punishment and drives through the side of a fast food restaurant when a server gets on her nerves. It also seems strange that she would mock her friend for possibly having cancer, but that’s beside the point.
But Madea isn’t the only problem -- although, she does present many. Perry’s humor is all over the place. Scenes that should have some emotional resonance resolve in shouting matches of bland jokes and puns, where Madea proclaims that everyone is apparently senseless.
Much like his last effort, “For Colored Girls,” Perry has a hard time recognizing people as more than stereotypes. Young women are characterized has monstrous harpies, while men are cowardly and emasculated. There’s little variation between these points. Tammy is interchangeable with Kimberly, Calvin with Harold, and Madea with Aunt Bam.
“Madea’s Big Happy Family” is an assault on the senses that rarely congeals into anything resembling humor or reality. I’m still trying to figure out how “Afternoont” and a pancreatic tumor equate in humor, but, hey, maybe Perry’s a pioneer of comedy, too.