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Tyler Perry
Tyler Perry
 109 Minutes
Rated: PG-13
Directed by: Tyler Perry
Starring: Tyler Perry, Patrice Lovely, Cassi Davis   
A Madea Family Funeral

As most people who would potentially be in the audience for Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral know, according to Perry, the movie marks the farewell cinematic appearance of Mabel “Madea” Simmons, her brother Joe, and nephew Brian, all played by Tyler Perry. But as most people who go to movies regularly know, until a character is actually put into the ground, farewell appearances often prove to be non-final. And since the funeral in this movie is not that of Madea or any of her kin who are played by Perry, it remains to be seen whether we have seen the last of her. If, however, this is Madea’s swan song, then she is going out on what constitutes, by the standards of most of her earlier films, a good note.


Many successful comedy franchises depend on a core acting ensemble that often provides humor that’s completely independent of the plot of any individual film (the Three Stooges are a prime example). But the Madea films may be unique in the annals of filmdom in that the ensemble primarily consists of one actor, Tyler Perry himself, playing three different roles in most of the movies. Perry plays the brash, no-nonsense Madea, her brother Joe whose hormones remain in high gear from one film to the next, and Joe’s son Brian, who serves as the straight man for many of Perry’s routines. In recent years, Perry has added two other actresses to the group as friends of Madea. Patrice Lovely plays Hattie, and Cassi Davis plays Aunt Bam. The two somewhat diminutive actresses serve as comic foils for Perry’s jokes (which they often fail to understand) and as visual counterpoints to the 6’5” Perry in drag. In A Madea Family Funeral, Perry has added another version of himself to the mix—Heathrow, a wheelchair-bound, chain-smoking, legless Vietnam vet with a voice box and a bald mullet. Unfortunately, the description of Heathrow is funnier than the character proves to be.


Like most Madea films, A Madea Family Funeral features a new set of Madea’s never-before-seen relatives who have significant problems that come straight out of every soap opera ever made. In this case, the guest of honor at the titular funeral is Anthony, the patriarch of a family of which Madea is a rather-fuzzily-described cousin. Madea and the gang had planned to attend a big anniversary bash for Anthony and wife Vianne (Jen Harper), but those plans change in a hurry when Anthony meets his end while participating in a somewhat kinky bondage scenario with Vianne’s best friend Renee (Quin Walter), who definitely dresses the part. Complicating matters even further is the fact that right down the hotel hall from Anthony’s last hurrah, his rather worthless son A.J. (Courtney Burrell) was having a hurrah of his own with his brother’s fiancée Gia (Aeriel Miranda).


Perry’s plot contrivances are the elements of classic farce, but he isn’t interested in that sort of humor. To the contrary, instead of the often hectic pace of farce, A Madea Family Funeral plays out at a, for want of a better word, funereal pace. Many of the scenes are lengthy, clearly ad-libbed gabfests involving, Madea, Joe, Bam, and Hattie. From a technical standpoint, these sequences are interesting solely because of the need for Perry to change clothes and insert lines uttered in a different accent into an ongoing dialogue. Over the course of a dozen years or so, he’s gotten quite good at that. What he hasn’t gotten all that good at is making those scenes funny or in knowing when to cut a scene short. As a result, nearly all of the Madea movies drag and Family Funeral is no exception.


Fortunately, Perry has some rich comic material to work with this time, unlike in some of his other movies. Funerals in general are ripe targets for Perry’s type of dark, irreverent humor, and black funerals in particular are ripe for satire. Much of A Madea Family Funeral is concerned with the buildup to the funeral (as in the clip below, in which Perry gets renewed comic mileage out of a well-worn Viagara joke). Like many other scenes in the movie, the funeral scene goes on too long, but for once, that’s the exact point the writer/director is trying to make.


Another scene that goes on far too long is the most discomforting in the entire movie, and, ironically, it’s the one that has the most real-life resonance. In the sequence, Brian is driving Madea, Joe, Hattie and Aunt Bam to the funeral parlor when they are pulled over by a white traffic cop. The cop gets frazzled when Brian attempts to show his license, and events nearly get very ugly. Frankly, I’m not sure if Perry intended this scene to be humorous or a cautionary tale, but, in either event, it didn’t work. There are no laughs to be had, and any serious social message gets diluted by the entire context of the Madea framework.


While that attempt at serious drama fell quite flat, Perry’s usual heavy doses of melodrama actually work better than you might imagine. There’s some heavy moralizing here, as the supporting characters are quite stereotyped. But a few of the more dramatic scenes do work well, especially one in which Vianne explains to her family why she put up with a womanizing husband for decades. I may be damning these scenes with faint praise, but they play much better than a lot of Perry’s soap operatic moments do.


In fact, that last sentence pretty much sums up my feeling about the movie. I can’t recall ever seeing a Madea movie that I would consider a classic comedy or even a generally good one overall. But Perry’s approach to comedy is to throw a lot of stuff at the wall (or the audience) and see what sticks. In this case, the funeral scenes work, and some of Madea’s byplay with her friends is also effective. Perry gets good mileage from the crudest sexual innuendo (although the PG-13 rating holds him back a bit), such as some jokes based on attempts at being euphemistic when discussing how the unfortunate Anthony died. All in all, A Madea Family Funeral is slightly better than average by big-screen comedy standards and considerably better than average by Tyler Perry Madea standards. If this is the old girl’s last hurrah (and I have a sneaking feeling it’s not), then she’s going out with a bang. 

In this clip, Tyler Perry, Patrice Lovely, and Cassi Davis go to the funeral parlor.

Read other reviews of A Madea Family Funeral: 

A Madea Family Funeral (2019) on IMDb