A Madea Family Funeral (2019) Review
A MESSY SLAPDASH FAREWELL
Tough, crass, and always has something to say, Mabel “Madea” Simmons is a fictional character that was created by actor/ writer / director (yeah that’s quite an impressive list) Tyler Perry. This elderly African-American character has been fan-favorite of Perry’s works, debuting her in his recorded stage play I Can Do Bad All by Myself and following-up in other recorded plays soon after. In 2005, Perry decided to make the jump from the theatre stage to feature film as Madea appeared in his movie Diary of a Mad Black Woman, which was also a recorded stage play back in 2001. With popularity growing with the character, Perry produced more films starring Madea (sometimes she was the focal point, others a side character). This includes, the film adaption of I Can Do Bad All by Myself, Madea Goes to Jail, Madea’s Family Reunion, Madea’s Witness Protection, A Madea Christmas, Boo! A Made Halloween (and its follow-up sequel). Now, Liongsate and director Tyler Perry gives one final performance for the outspoken linebacker sized female character with the movie A Madea Family Funeral. Does this latest film give the character a proper send-off or is it just a haphazard endeavor from Perry?
It’s a big family weekend for Anthony (Derek Morgan) and his wife, Vianne (Jen Harper), with their kids planning a family celebration party for the couple. Traveling to this family gathering are Brian (Tyler Perry), Madea (Tyler Perry), Joe (Tyler Perry), Hattie (Patrice Lovely), and Aunt Bam (Cassi Davis), who make their way to a hotel for the night, only to come across a sudden emergency with Anthony, who’s died while in having sex with family friend Renee (Quin Walters). To make matter worse, Anthony’s son, A.J. (Courtney Burrell) has discovered the scene as well, having booked the adjacent room (in manner of coincidence) to have intercourse with Gia (Aeriel Miranda), his brother’s wife. Caught in the middle of this very bad and sticky situation, Madea and her side of the family ty to keep a low profile as funeral plans are quickly made, tasked with arranging a celebration for Anthony. However, as everything gets underway, secrets are revealed, fights break out, and the truth behind Anthony and Vianne’s marriage comes out.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
From other reviews that I’ve done on Madea (Boo! A Madea Halloween and Boo 2! A Madea Halloween) as well as several other films in this category, Tyler Perry has definitely built an icon from this outspoken (linebacker sized) character. There’s a certain charm to it all that has worked, which is probably why he’s played the characters in several of feature films as either a supporting role or the main lead. However, I personally feel the character of Madea has really run its course, with Perry’s movie featuring her becoming less and less intriguing or entertaining and more slapstick humdrum (with very elongated sequences of comedic sketches that really don’t go anywhere). To me, after seeing Boo 2! A Madea Halloween, I was hoping that Perry wasn’t gonna play the character again and move on to other projects.
Well, I kind of half got that right with Perry’s next project A Madea Family Funeral, which is (presumably) the final feature film to star his Madea character. I vaguely remembering hear the announcement new (via online) about this project and wasn’t really interested in seeing this as I expected it to be very much the same a lot of his other projects with the character (i.e. a lot of character interactions with a weak storyline narrative and maybe some bad acting decisions). To be honest, I really didn’t even see the film’s movie trailer, but I did know it was released online (just never bothered to see it or never saw during the 20-minute previews when I went to the movie theaters). To be even more honest, I didn’t see A Madea Family Funeral in theaters as it was only planning for a limited time (I think it was pulled at my local theaters in favor of more popular films). Plus (as you can tell), I wasn’t so keen on seeing it right away. Still, after some time of its home release, I decided to rent the movie and see…well…to see if I was right or wrong about this. And was I? Well, I was kind of right about….and that’s disappointing. While there are few bits and pieces about the movie I liked, A Madea Family Funeral is just tired and old shtick from Tyler Perry that really doesn’t work anymore. It’s not like that the character of Madea needed a fantastical sendoff, but something more definitive (and an actual film) would’ve been nicer.
As stated in the opening paragraph, Tyler Perry usually wears multiple hats when creating his brand of movies, finding Perry in the roles of director, writer, producer, and starring (as Madea) in A Madea Funeral. This, of course, means that Perry has basically free range of the entire feature in both in front and behind the camera in crafting this installment within his own creative cinematic world, which happens to include his signature character of Madea. Thus, Perry is given full-license within A Madea Family Funeral, creating a film that caters to his followers and having ample time to do fully capitalize on his improvisation work (himself and his other co-stars) throughout the movie. Unlike his two Boo! Movies, Perry goes back to more of his previous movies in making Madea (and several of his comedic characters) more on the backdrop of certain scenes, with a more palpable narrative taking centerstage (i.e. the unexpected death / funeral of Anthony). Not only that, but the movie does offer a few more dramatic beats within the various family members throughout, which makes for a little more complexed story than just the simplistic nature of several of the Madea installments. Furthermore, like a lot of Perry’s movies, A Madea Family Funeral (at its story’s climatic) delves in some pretty heavy material of abuse and a toxic relationship, which is something quite unique and does leave a strong impression.
As for production quality and overall presentation, the movie was “on par” with what I expected a feature like this would be. It’s neither super great nor cheap and bad. It’s just not something that to fully dissect enough. Yes, the costumes and set-pieces (production layout and set decorations) were suitable for the film’s setting and characters, but nothing really scream remarkable. So, in the end, it’s just okay and okay perfectly fine.
Unfortunately, A Madea Family Funeral is far from a perfect and doesn’t really ring a fond farewell movie for Perry’s character. For the most part, my biggest gripe with the movie is that the film’s story / plot doesn’t exactly revolve around Madea. Yes, the character is in the movie and does standout within the scenes that she is in, but her involvement (along with many of the characters that surround her) feel completely unnecessary and (to be honest) quite odd. It’s almost like Perry had an idea for a movie and just decided (at the last minute) to shoehorn the character of Madea (and friends) into the feature; branding it a “Madea” movie in the process. However, removing the character Madea and company out of the main narrative probably would’ve been the best as the storylines without them are far better and probably more compelling that the weak comedic punchlines that Perry drums up with them in it.
Additionally, the whole juxtaposition of comedy and heavy-hitting drama doesn’t quite mesh well. I do understand that Perry usually tries to incorporate the two together in his past projects (and sometimes it does work), but in A Madea Funeral it just comes off as a confusing. One scene the movie is trying to interject comedic levity with drugs and dick jokes and then the next scene the movie trying to be dramatic and heartful (almost like soap opera) of family dynamics of secrets and lies. In better hands, these two thematic tones could be balanced, but Perry seems to be having difficultly in juggling the two; rendering the transitions of these polar opposites in a confusing light that retract rather harmonize throughout the movie.
Then there are the film’s jokes and gag, which are more misses than hits. I’ll admit that I did laugh at two or three scenes, but most of them are plain and simple not funny and cater to more of the lower bass comedy. There’s nothing wrong with that, so long that the setup / execution is there and that the movie’s narrative calls for it. Unfortunately, A Madea Family Funeral doesn’t really call for it and ends up being redundant and tiresome throughout. Adding to that is the fact majority of the comedic scenes revolves around Madea and her friends in elongated nonsensical sketches sequences that really don’t go anywhere. One scene in particular involves the group getting pulled over by a white cop. The scene seems endless and just keeps going and doesn’t really offer much impact to the story or than a detour “filler” of sorts. Again, it’s something that Perry has done in the past, but it just lazier and more tiresome in A Madea Funeral.
All that being said, the movies ending just feels utterly unsatisfying; leaving it a somewhat open-ended format rather than a fitting closure piece. In truth, the ending feels like an ending for an episodic sitcom show (a goofy-esque ending point) that does little to draw to a closure point. On top of that, Perry doesn’t even end the movie with a proper conclusion / farewell for his Madea character!
The cast in A Madea Family Funeral is simply just okay; ranging from a mixture of actors and actresses that are talented individuals, but play / perform their respective characters in a mediocre fashion. Naturally, Tyler Perry is front and center of the feature, playing the outspoken, linebacker-sized female protagonist Mabel “Madea” Simmons. It’s Perry’s signature character within his cinematic movie universe and he always seems to have the most fun in portraying this titular comedic character, which usually produces the most laughs (when she’s on-screen) and probably the best part of all the Madea movies, including this one. The problem, however, is that Perry really doesn’t bring anything new to the character, which makes the character of Madea (as a whole) stagnant. Basically, the character is becoming really stale and A Madea Family Funeral does little to advance her, beyond her typical classic styles of saying what’s ever on her mind. It’s a certainly is a fun role to see and watch (especially what she says on various topics and scenarios), but Perry’s Madea doesn’t really evolve and doesn’t even have a proper sendoff in the movie, which is quite disappointing. Plus, I would’ve expected to see Madea’s last appearance in a Tyler Perry movie be mainly about…well…Perry’s Madea. Unfortunately, the character gets lost in its own movie, which (again) is disappointing.
Likewise, the same with Perry’s other character of Joe Simmons, who does in a similar persona of Madea (an old timer who speaks his mind freely and openly), finding Joe having a bit more humorous lines that actually stick their landing. However, the same cannot be said with Heathrow (another one of Madea’s relatives that Perry plays in the movie), which is more of a “sight gag” and nothing more; offering little room for comedic timing. Then there’s Perry’s last role in the movie as the character of Mike Simmons, who is the more of the strait-laced character of the group. Like before, the character is nothing memorable in the parts that Perry as played before, but it’s kind of mixed bag. This is because of the character of Brian is a bland role (recycled from several of the previous movies), but Perry is good in it, despite the role being corny at times.
The other two co-stars (of which that revolve around the character of Madea) are Cassi Davis’s (House of Payne and Madea’s Big Happy Family) Aunt Bam and Patrice Lovely’s (Love Thy Neighbor and Madea Gets a Job) as Hattie Mae Love are thinly sketched characters, who really don’t have much to offer in the movie and are basically “window dressing” for the feature. Like Perry’s Madea, these two characters are stale and are getting old, despite their quirky / odd personas.
The rest of the cast, including actress Jen Harper (Greenleaf and Kill the Messenger) as Vianne, actor Derek Morgan (Never Been Kissed and For the People) as Vianne’s husband, Anthony, actor Courtney Burrell (Black Boots and Chef Julian) as Vianne’s and Anthony’s oldest son, AJ, actress KJ Smith (Family Time and The Fix) as AJ’s wife, Carol, actor Rome Flynn (The Bold and the Beautiful and How to Get Away with Murder) as Vianne and Anthony’s youngest son, Jessie, actress Aeriel Miranda (Pretty Little Liars and Straight Outta Compton) as Jessie’s fiancée, Gia, actress Ciera Payton (She’s Gotta Have It and The Runner) as Anthony and Vianne’s daughter, Silvia, actress, wrestler / actor David Otunga (The Call and I Love New York) as Silvia’s husband, Will, and actress Quin Walters (The Haves and the Have Nots and The Intruders) as Vianne and Anthony’s friend / maid, Renee), make up the rest of Madea extended family and relatives. While the acting of these talents is okay-ish, the characters are simply caricaturing of a family soap opera drama. So do a have a little part to play in the main narrative, but most just feel unnecessary to the point where it becomes sort of a chore to figure out “who’s who” in the family. There’s just too many of them to even fully care about and to get invested into, especially since this might be the last time we’ll seeing them.
A family gathering turns into a funeral as secrets come out with Madea (and company) there to lighten the load in the movie A Madea Family Funeral. Director Tyler Perry’s latest film sees his beloved Madea character with one more cinematic feature, which involves the titular character interacting with her extended family and caught up with a “family crisis”. Unfortunately, while the movie does have stirring message of abuse (something akin to many of Perry’s more serious endeavors) and a few sparse comedic bits, the majority of the film is just bland and tiresome with too many uninteresting characters, perplexing family dynamics, uneven thematic tones, boring comedic sketches scenes, and just lazy writing throughout. Personally, I really didn’t care for this movie. It wasn’t as terrible as some of Madea movies, but that’s not really saying much about these features. It had several moments that worked, but those were few and far between in motion picture that gets lost within its own narrative. Thus, my recommendation for this movie is a definite “skip it” as there’s really not much entertainment value…. even if you’re a fan of Perry’s work and / or his Madea movies. In the end, much like what I’ve said repeatedly about his previous works, it’s really just a shame that Tyler Perry chooses to produce such low quality endeavors (as he is quite a talented individual) and A Madea Family Funeral is the perfect example of this; ending his infamous character of Madea on just messy, haphazard, and unsatisfying note with little entertainment fanfare.
2.2 Out of 5 (Skip It)
Release Date: March 1st, 2019
Reviewed On: September 10th, 2019
A Madea Family Funeral is 109 minutes long and is rated PG-13 for crude sexual content, language, and drug references throughout
He peaked with this character in Diary of a Mad Black Woman. I think Perry is an underrated actor when he’s led by other directors (Gone Girl-Fincher, Vice-McKay). I’d like to see him tackle some more dramatic roles.
Oh yes….that much I agree with when he peaked. He’s definitely a great actor as it’s sad he doesn’t tackle more “meaty” roles or features films.
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