After last year’s strong, albeit serious, cinematic efforts “Why Did I Get Married Too?” and “For Colored Girls,” it seemed as though the tide had turned for filmmaker Tyler Perry.
On the other hand, both movies did not fare so well financially. Therefore, it is no wonder that Perry promptly returned to his mainstay character – the wise-cracking, take-no-prisoners grandmother known as Madea. However, popularity is not always the best indicator of quality.
Rather, “Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Big Happy Family” is one of the filmmaker’s weakest efforts to date. Perry earns credit for seamlessly weaving his Madea character into the story significantly better than in projects past but the laughs simply are not there. Nor is the emotional investment that is integral to making the flick’s dramatic aspects work.
Loretta Devine plays Shirley, a woman who receives distressing news about her health and wants to gather her three adult children around her to share it as a family. However, Tammy (Natalie Desselle Reid), Kimberly (Shannon Kane) and Byron (Shad “Bow Wow” Moss) are too distracted by their own problems to realize that Shirley’s may be even bigger.
Tammy cannot manage her unruly children or her broken marriage to Harold (Rodney Perry) while Kimberly is gripped with anger and takes it out on her husband Calvin (Isaiah Mustafa) and Byron, recently released from prison, is considering dealing drugs again thanks to pressure from his girlfriend Renee (Lauren London) and baby momma Sabrina (Teyana Taylor).
Therefore, Shirley’s aunt Madea (Perry) jumps into action to gather the clan together and make things right. So, essentially the same plot as the other entries in Perry’s Madea franchise except with a new group of characters (How many branches does this family tree have?) and a little tweaking here and there on specific details.
But that is not really the issue here. After all, most moviegoers have come to expect this from Perry’s films and the tried-and-true approach seems to resonate with his core audience. Moreover, as previously mentioned, Perry does a better job than usual implementing Madea into the other characters lives. She actually feels like an important part of the story instead of some cheap trick to draw people into the theater.
However, “Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Big Happy Family” is kind of mean-spirited – quite the unusual trait for a movie that bills itself as a faith-based production. Its characters treat each other with disgustingly vile disrespect (even after the so-called resolution) and we are asked to laugh about it.
Needless to say, not only does this make “Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Big Happy Family” the farthest thing from funny but it also makes it hard to feel anything but complete contempt for the entire cast of characters. Therefore, without any emotional investment in the outcomes of their respective problems, there really is not much point in enduring the otherwise trifling experience.
“Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Big Happy Family” (PG-13 – 106 minutes) is now playing at movie theaters throughout the Valley. Visit NCM.com for specific showtimes and locations.
Listen to Joseph J. Airdo’s “Movie Maverick” radio segment, every Friday morning at 8:30 a.m. during “The Daily Blender with Jeffry O’Brien” on KBSZ – NBC 1260 AM and 96.1 FM.