Tyler Perry Says Goodbye to Madea With ‘A Madea Family Funeral’
She’s gone to prison, dealt with anger issues, and handled crisis after crisis. Now, Mabel “Madea” Simmons, a character created for the stage and screen by Tyler Perry, is taking her final bow in the aptly titled “A Madea Family Funeral.” Perry, who recently appeared in “Vice,” has decided to bid farewell to his iconic character, based on his aunt, after 20 years. Though, it is not Madea who is being buried, but her reprobate relative Anthony (Derek Morgan), the patriarch of a “bougie” family hiding multiple secrets. Fortunately, they have Madea and her wacky cohorts to help them face the music.
Perry pulls quadruple duty here, playing not only Madea, but also her two brothers, wise guy Joe and Heathrow, who lost his legs to diabetes but tells everyone he’s a war hero, as well as Brian, Joe’s straight-laced lawyer son. Two old ladies, prissy Aunt Bam (Cassi Davis) and horny widow Hattie (Patrice Lovely), round out the group of old folks, who serve as a Greek chorus of sorts as Madea’s relatives see their lives crashing down after what was supposed to be an anniversary celebration for Anthony and his wife Vianne (Jen Harper) turns into something else entirely. It is at a high-end hotel where the old folks and Brian discover Anthony half-dead of a heart attack with a ball gag in his mouth. With him is Renee (Quin Walters), a young family friend. Coincidentally, Anthony’s older son, A.J. (Courtney Burrell) is in the next room engaged in a tryst with Gia (Aeriél Miranda), the fiancée of his younger brother, Jessie (Rome Flynn). To further complicate things, A.J. has a wife, Carol (K.J. Smith). There’s also a sister, Sylvia (Ciera Payton), who is happily married to Will (David Otunga).
After Anthony is pronounced dead, Vianne decides to bury him in two days time, which is unfathomable to Madea. Nevertheless, she helps make it a funeral to remember. Adding to the outlandishness is a site gag involving a casket that won’t close, which is either hilarious or super juvenile, depending on one’s mood and sense of humor. As Anthony and Vianne were idolized as the perfect couple by their kids, one would expect a strong reaction when dozens of colorful women pop up at his funeral. Oddly, this isn’t the case, as Perry saves the real explosions for the ensuing wake.
Not surprisingly, “A Madea Family Funeral” is at its best when it’s just Madea going off on one of her tangents. What has made Madea such an enduring cultural icon is her ability to use humor to deal with serious topics. In this final film, she takes on police racism, and the differences between the generations are clear after Brian is pulled over while driving the old folks. The idealistic lawyer is certain that he can reason with the white officer, while Madea has a different reaction that is both sad and hilarious.
The weakest moments occur when Madea is off screen, when the focus is one the drama between the young people. The dialogue in these more serious scenes is stale and on the nose, particularly when A.J. is being a one-note bad guy, berating his wife and betraying his brother with no remorse.
“A Madea Family Funeral” opens March 1 nationwide.