A Madea Family Funeral
I do not want to be too mean. As a person, I greatly respect and understand Tyler Perry. Perry has done many terrific things for various communities, and his story of perseverance to overcome great adversity is one that instills hope in many people who lead troubled lives. You can also at least admire his prolific nature, I suppose. Then, there are the slight glimmers of brilliance. I Can Do Bad All By Myself was a near-passing-graded film that shows brief signs of actual dignity. Brief signs. Then there are Perry’s scene-stealing moments in other films. Gone Girl featured the very first example of Perry’s actual capabilities as an actor, as a to-the-point attorney that, ironically, refuses to settle for nonsense. Then there was last year’s Vice, where Perry’s Colin Powell was, dare I say it, brilliant; it’s too bad he was barely in the film.
Even in his infamous works, I can see some very small amounts of credibility. Sure, there is an actual bare-basic story in his works, including the Madea series (of which we are clearly dipping into today). There is at least the smallest of progressions, the slightest of semblances, and characters with traits (very obvious, stereotypical traits). I’m of course comparing these films to the worst parody films, which sadly is not the lowest-bar you want to be compared to (“well, X film is bad, but at least it isn’t Movie 43 bad”).
With all of that very difficult digging for pros out of the way, let’s get into… Madea…. A Madea Family Funeral. The final film in the epic series of cinematic, literary brilliance that is anchored by the progressive, gender-bending, witty character performed with excellence by a daring, bold actor/director/writer/producer. In this hilarious, mind-bending finale — one that is not afraid to contain emotions — we have a send off that will break your heart and split your sides.
Wait. The rating is at the top of the review. You already know how I feel about the film. The charade cannot continue.
Yeah, it’s terrible.
Andreas Babiolakis has a Masters degree in Film and Photography Preservation and Collections management from Ryerson University, as well as a Bachelors degree in Cinema Studies from York University. He is wondering why he resorted to watching a Madea film, but then realized that critics should make sacrifices to share many views with his audience. We can’t just review good films, after all.
Okay, let’s just get this over with. I have to prove I did sit through this slog, don’t I?
The biggest problem Perry’s bottom-barrel films have, is that the jokes are simply jokes to be jokes. A relative with a voice box due to his smoking habit (Heathrow, played by Perry) sounds funny, so that’s all there is to it. He’s also a horny old man. So is Joe, who is also played by Perry (wait so which older man is supposed to be the perverted one?). Actually, so are a bunch of the older women. I guess the joke is that older people love to hit on and fantasize about the younger generations. What was that I said about character differentiation earlier? Well, maybe this Madea film is worse than usual (I, admittedly, and thankfully, have not seen all of them) am used to, but the main punch line is that family is annoying, but you love them. There are scandals that result in death (an affair during what is supposed to be a family reunion time ends up with a heart attack). There are actually serious dramas: a feuding family tries to wrap their heads around death and cheating. All of these elements come together when one of the elderly women jumps at the opportunity to resuscitate the unconscious man, who happens to have a massive erection. Poignant.
Seeing that many jokes are just there for the hell of it, nothing adds up in any way, outside of the pile-up of cringes you may experience. It is 2019, and there is still a mainstream film out there with jokes about men in tight pants obviously being “gay”, and hermaphroditic assumptions meant as insults. It is 2019, folks. I don’t mind offensive or dark humour, but there is nothing here but comebacks for arguments that sometimes don’t even happen. This is what listening to fifth graders sounds like (maybe back in the ‘80s or ‘90s, anyways). The majority of jokes — outside of thirsty geriatrics and uncalled-for bigotry — are hyperbolic statements, whose exaggerations are the foundations of the humour presented. Madea is mad and is going to whoop some ass. That’s funny. That’s the joke. And you hear this again and again.
The jokes fall flatter than flat; they dig deep into the earth’s core, as you sink into your chair and your brain seeps out through your ears and drips down onto your shoulders. There are shallow attempts at depth, too. An early scene contains a confrontation with a caucasian police officer that has pulled over the Simmons car for obviously racist reasons. The scene is strained, over-the-top, but, worst of all, predictable. We have a comedic filmmaker who has a voice to shed some perspective on the situation, and we get nothing but an overlong, terrible scene that offers absolutely zero extra insight into a common problem in society. In this film, everything just exists. There is barely any connectivity between story points, jokes, and even characters on a fundamental, literary level. We’re at the eleventh bloody film of a series, folks. I don’t care if this is Madea, Vito Corleone, or Porky Pig: there should be some sort of actual substance to a series of characters and events eleven damn films in.
The death could have happened well before a half-hour into the film. The funeral could have started earlier than well-within the second half. But we have to wait for more comments on how young women look great (according to the old men), and see how Heathrow forgets to use his electrolarynx despite having needed it the entire film (that’s comedic tension though, folks). We need to be reminded that the dearly departed died during fornication, and that now his casket can’t be closed properly thanks to the obvious inevitable organ downstairs that sent him to the room upstairs.
We absolutely need to take all of the romantic issues seriously, though. Count the amount of “My dad died, give me a break” statements, the amounts of times the perfumes of others rubbing off on characters happens, and all of the phallic jokes in between. The emotional moments are quick and barely capable of an impact. All of the other moments are like listening to the most obnoxious fools for over an hour and a half. Madea, meant to be the voice of reason, opens the titular funeral with a shout out to Popeye’s chicken. The older male characters all talk about which female patrons they would take turns with. All of this is inexcusable, because Perry was in control of virtually everything here (behind and in front of the camera).
Then there is Perry as Brian, flipping through the massive sermon book (one of the only barely chuckle-worthy moments here). No make up. No fat suits. No offensive accents. No outdated caricatures. Just an actor understanding comedic subtlety in a performance, allowing a silly event to take place for one slight second. Every other second is spent yelling “we are still hilarious eleven films in!” at you, as if you dare thought otherwise. People ask how I watch films like Come and See, and Stalker, or the miniseries Berlin Alexanderplatz. “Aren’t those challenging?”, people ask me. No. A Madea Family Funeral is challenging.
The worst part is that there is a huge revelation at the end of the film that is meant to tie everything up; the funeral, the scandals, the family, all of it. In a better film, this would have been moving. Here, it’s way too much, way too late. You cannot squeeze character analyses of a full film’s magnitude in ten minutes towards the end; not after all of the trash you’ve had to sit through. The funeral represents the (supposed) final chapter in the Bad-ea series. Good riddance. The conundrum for how a talented person like Tyler Perry can make such brutal drivel has continued into 2019, and has remained unsolvable for now.
Also there is a Mike Tyson cameo for those of you that stayed awake until the end. Yep.
Andreas Babiolakis has a Masters degree in Film and Photography Preservation and Collections management from Ryerson University, as well as a Bachelors degree in Cinema Studies from York University. His favourite times of year are the Criterion Collection flash sales and the annual Toronto International Film Festival.