Monday, March 4, 2019

A Madea Family Funeral: A Review


A Madea Family Funeral is not the first film of 2019 that I have seen. However, as one who has some knowledge of the Madea Cinematic Universe, I would be remiss not to look over what writer/director Tyler Perry says is his final turn as the wigged-out loudmouth matriarch of an ever-expanding family. A Madea Family Funeral is typical Madea material: an odd mix of soap opera melodrama and raunchy humor with a hint of morality thrown in. For better or worse Perry knows his audience and gives them what they want.

Madea, her brother Joe and his son Brian (Perry in all three roles), along with Madea's friends Bam (Cassie Davis) and Hattie (Patrice Lovely) are going to see Madea and Joe's other brother Heathrow (also Perry) to join his family for a 40th Wedding Anniversary party.

The happy couple are churchgoing Vianne (Jen Harper), whom I figure is Heathrow's daughter, and Anthony (Derek Morgan). However, the anniversary turns into a funeral when Anthony dies suddenly of a heart attack. This is where things start getting complicated.

Very complicated.

Anthony died while in the middle of some kinky S&M sex with his mistress, who happens to be family friend Renee (Quin Walters). As it happens, this is revealed because Anthony's son A.J. (Courtney Burrell) is in the very next room with his own mistress and he recognizes his father's voice before he dies 'with a ball in his mouth' as Hattie keeps telling anyone who will listen. A.J.'s mistress happens to be Gia (Ariel Miranda), who just happens to be fiancee to Jessie (Rome Flynn), who happens to be A.J.'s brother.

I think my Mom's tevenovelas are less convoluted.

Image result for a madea family funeralAdd to this wild mix the fact that Brian's group is staying at the exact same hotel and happens to come upon this very sordid scene and you have the makings of a very odd situation.

Now we have all these secrets that everyone is trying to keep from everyone else who does not know, meaning Vianne, A.J.'s wife Carol (Kj Smith) and A.J. and Jessie's sister Sylvia (Ciera Payton) and Sylvia's husband Will (David Otunga).

Vianne asks Madea to get the funeral in order within two days, which she does in her own way despite proclaiming that 'black people don't rush funerals'. The funeral goes as expected (read disastrously) and eventually everything comes out, with Madea at the ready to help sort things out and put everyone in their place.

Again, Tyler Perry knows his audience and gives them what they want. I heard a lot of laughing and more interestingly cheering and I think some affirmations to the characters coming from the audience. The ending where Madea tells it like it is to both A.J. and Carol got an especially enthusiastic response from the people around me.

I won't lie: I laughed at some of the outlandishness in A Madea Family Funeral. It is hard not to when we have a running gag about a dead man's erection constantly popping up and popping up the casket. It is hard not to when we see Madea, in a hat she may have stolen from the Pilgrims, insist on trying to keep the funeral down to seven hours long by literally throwing people off the lectern after their 'two minutes' is up. It's hard not to when you see Hattie (who appears to have the aftereffects of a stroke given how she holds her arm) fling herself on top of Anthony's corpse to 'give him mouth-to-mouth' (though it is unclear where she intended to give him mouth-to-mouth and I'll leave it at that).

Image result for a madea family funeral
The funeral scene is probably the funniest in A Madea Family Funeral, from her malapropisms to the spoofing of African-American funerals to the discovery that the majority of the female mourners knew Anthony 'in the Biblical sense'. It also keeps to the Madea Formula, which is to have the older characters (Madea, Joe, Heathrow, Bam, Hattie) say and do the most outlandish even obscene scenes while the younger characters either behave though all of this is perfectly rational or have no reaction to the wild goings-on.

One cannot single out any particularly great acting in A Madea Family Funeral save for Harper, who has a wonderful and surprisingly dramatic monologue about the sacrifices she has made for her children. This is the moralizing part of a Tyler Perry film, a moment that is both expected and even surprisingly rational in the bonkers Madea Cinematic Universe.

Apart from Harper (who also has her moments of having no real reaction to the lunacy of her extended family) and Perry's multiple roles, one cannot find much to compliment the rest of the cast on. Perry's best performance, oddly, was not as the brassy Madea (though he was up to his standards of the character) or the vulgar Joe or the legless voice-box speaking Heathrow (though the latter had funny moments). It was as Brian, the straitlaced and long-suffering rational one, the Marilyn Munster of the Simmons Family.

Brian's best moments are when he's stopped by the police and insists on being dutiful only to end up irritated, even slightly angry when the cop doesn't give him any citation and said cop changes his manner with Brian from almost unhinged to sweetness itself.

The other cast members attempt to play their soap opera script to the best of their abilities, but A Madea Family Funeral seems more interesting in displaying their delicious bodies than in giving them something to do. The film seems extremely fixated on showing off the physical beauty of both Flynn and Burrell, with them in many shirtless scenes. At least they had something to do, which is more than can be said for Payton or Otunga who seemed irrelevant to the story.

A Madea Family Funeral is what it is: typical Tyler Perry/Madea. Those who hate it will hate the film. Those who love it will love the film. Those, like me, who accept it and know what they are getting, will find some laughs and some groans, but such is life and death.


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