DVD Review - Madea's Big Happy Family

This might be the worst depiction of female African-Americans that I've seen in all of my life. I realize that Tyler Perry adapted this film from his stage play of the same name, but the one thing Perry doesn't seem to comprehend is that there is a difference between stage acting and screen acting. Despite coming up with various locations around town, I doubt Perry did much to change the text of the stage play when writing the script for this.

I understand that this is a comedy, a broad one, but Perry has no concept at all of subtlety or nuance, especially when it comes to any of his female characters. All of them are one note, typically big, one notes that are most often discordant. That might work on a theater stage, but on a movie or TV screen, it only makes me want to push the mute button.

It's odd for me to criticize the characters in this movie because I have real-life family members who behave sometimes the same way. That being said, there comes a point when conforming or simply imitating reality is not enough. Perry's movie is in a sense a spoof or satire of black culture, a culture that has become the fuel for shows like Maury Povich.

That would almost be clever, if Perry didn't make almost every moment unbearable to watch. With the exception of Loretta Divine who plays Miss Shirley, the matriarch of a dysfunctional and unruly family, every female character here is unbearable. They're either annoying, arrogant or angry, often times for no apparent reason.

When Perry does provide an apparent reason, it's delivered outrageously and is hardly handled in a tactful way. Nothing here is really tactful. There's one scene where three men, Miss Shirley's so-called son and his so-called brothers-in-law, are having a conversation and the talk is just a series of complaints of how awful the women in their lives are. It's so one-sided and the scene goes on for way too long.

At least in Why Did I Get Married (2007), Perry gave the women scenes together to show they weren't all and always awful, but actual human beings with their own fears and desires. Perry instead doesn't do that here. He leaves the female characters as not much more than their complaints. Then, in the third act, he drops a bomb and expects that to level the playing field, but it doesn't. It sadly does nothing.

There is another scene that reminded me of the dinner scene in Eddie Murphy's Nutty Professor. Perry writes, directs and edits this scene in a way that imitates the way a stage play would do it. Yet, on screen, it's only clunky. It's again too long and ultimately only funny to Perry and to no one else.

The only interesting thing here is the fact that the gender roles between Madea and Mr. Brown are seemingly reversed. Given that Madea is played by Tyler Perry, it makes for an interesting dynamic. That dynamic is unfortunately only explored once and for just a brief second.

If you want to see a better film with Loretta Divine, I'd recommend Jumping the Broom. That film actually has fully formed, female characters with layers and multiple dimensions. This movie is just another vehicle for Madea to say and do outlandish things as well as constantly hurl insults and administer her brutal honesty and extremely tough love. It's nothing more than absurdist preaching.

One Stars out of Five.
Rated PG-13 for drug content and some language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 47 mins.


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