CAST: Tyler Perry, Brendan O’Carroll, Tamela J. Mann, David Mann, Cassi Davis, Brandon Black, Jennifer Gibney, Gabrielle Dennis, Candace Maxwell, Geneva Maccarone, Isha Blaaker
RUNNING TIME: 105 mins
BASICALLY…: Madea (Perry) attends the college graduation of her great-grandson, where family drama erupts…
NOW FOR THE REVIEW…
Where in the universe does one even begin with Madea? Having first caused a storm in a series of plays before cracking the big screen in 2005’s sleeper hit Diary of a Mad Black Woman, the elderly and cantankerous creation of Tyler Perry has gone on to star in an entire series of films, all with specific themes and settings from Madea’s Family Reunion to Madea Goes To Jail and now A Madea Homecoming, to holiday-themed entries like A Madea Christmas and Boo! A Madea Halloween (the latter of which proved to be so successful that a sequel was rushed out one year later). However, Madea is not a universally-loved character; in addition to savage critic reviews with each and every entry, she is widely seen as a modern example of minstrelsy, angering people like Spike Lee who view her as a negative and harmful reinforcement of Black stereotypes, and given the fact that she is played by Perry himself in a dress and wig, there is debate over whether she also misappropriates drag culture. None of that seems to matter, though, for there is clearly an audience who still makes the time to go and see each one of these movies (it wouldn’t be a powerhouse franchise otherwise), and for better or worse it looks like Madea, and by extension Tyler Perry, is here to stay.
All of that being said, nothing will prepare you for A Madea Homecoming. Whether you’ve been following this series from the very beginning, or are seeing Madea in action for the very first time – as will be the case for a lot of people here in the UK, where it is debuting on Netflix as it is worldwide due to a new distribution deal with Tyler Perry Studios – you will not believe the absolute WTF nature on display here, making it one of those bad movies which has so much wrong with it, and yet you just can’t help but be utterly fascinated by everything about it.
Let’s begin with how the movie just starts, with no build-up or proper establishing shot; within seconds, we are already with Madea (Perry) and her brother Joe (also Perry) as they’re trying to put out a CGI fire that has engulfed their friend Leroy Brown (David Mann) after he poured gasoline on the barbeque. Oh, Leroy’s fine, by the way – seriously, no burn marks or even severely charcoaled clothes (except for a butt shot moments later), because that’s just the kind of crazy world that writer and director Tyler Perry has just inflicted upon us all. Moments later, we get to meet Madea’s great-grandson Tim (Brandon Black) and his friend Davi (Isha Blakker), both of whom are introduced via wildly awkward exposition (get used to that, by the way) that states that they are both about to graduate from college, and are on their way to Madea’s house for a family celebration. The party soon gets under way, with guests including Tim’s mother Laura (Gabrielle Dennis), her sister Ellie (Candace Maxwell) who also happens to be a cop, and – to top it all off – Davi’s grandaunt, who so happens to be one Agnes Brown (Brendan O’Carroll). That’s right, folks: A Madea Homecoming is also a crossover event with Mrs. Brown’s Boys, so for those of you out there who were desperate for a sequel to O’Carroll’s own big-screen adventure Mrs. Brown’s Boys D’Movie, this is as close as you’ll probably get.
But then, as often seems to happen in a Madea movie, some serious family drama is unearthed. In past Madea movies, topics that have been tackled include drug addiction, racism, spousal abuse, infidelity, and I’m pretty certain that incest has even come up in one of these films as well. Here, though, things are pretty tame by comparison, most of it having to do with one character working up the courage to reveal they are gay to their family, but that does not mean that there aren’t any wild moments of soap opera reveals that get more and more ridiculous each and every time, and soon you are just left to ogle at the absolute insanity that has gone into this writing to make all these dramatic scenes a reality. Some of its more topical themes are introduced early on but largely just used for directionless comedic effect, such as Joe going into full Black Lives Matter/Defund The Police activism mode around Ellie’s cop character, or later when misinterpretation of the word “knickers” causes everything to stop dead for racial debate. It’s all clumped together so haphazardly and often without rhyme or reason that you often wonder what the central messages are meant to be, because it all seems to be lost within these awkward yet hypnotically fascinating tonal shifts which frankly have to be seen to be believed.
The filmmaking itself is a whole new world of craziness, for there are scenes where you’re not sure if it’s either Perry’s shambolic direction or the lazy editing that is causing things to end with what looks like actors breaking character by laughing, but then in the next shot look fully composed. Most of the camerawork is made up of static shots, with lighting that looks like stage spotlights half of the time, and very confusing blocking where people will just stand awkwardly next to each other without looking anywhere close to normal. The actors do not look like they’ve been given much concrete direction, with even Perry himself left to stammer through dialogue that sounds like it was made up on the spot, because sometimes it sounds like it’s being rewritten halfway through speaking a sentence, forcing incessant repetition that quickly gets old. There are times when both Perry’s writing and direction collide for sequences where I’m not entirely certain we’re supposed to laugh, including a major black-and-white flashback that is like watching a fever dream unfold right in front of your very eyes; shot like a 40s film noir, it involves Tyler Perry as a younger Madea wearing a tight dress and stiletto heels, which is already weird to watch, but not even that will prepare you for where it goes next, from trashing an entire NAACP office, to confronting a major historical figure which Madea is apparently responsible for their notoriety, and just when things can’t possibly get weirder she uses an iPhone in 1950s and starts live-streaming in front of said historical figure. It is absolutely insane, and I feel like I’m not doing it much justice by simply writing about it, because you really need to see this in order to know that I haven’t gone crazy.
Don’t get me wrong, though; A Madea Homecoming is really, really bad. It’s terribly made, awkwardly acted, and with over-the-top writing that wouldn’t pass for an episode of Dynasty back in the day, but it is so bonkers and on an entirely different wavelength of insanity that I can’t help but be impressed by its awfulness. From everything I’ve heard about previous Madea entries, this all sounds like it’s par for the course, and honestly it doesn’t even sound like this is the most insane Madea movie out there, but for all its woeful qualities I am so happy that I was able to see this. Sometimes, a bad movie can still be bad, but also impress you with how bad it can be, and I feel like a whole can of worms has just been opened up that is now enticing me to seek out more of these crazy adventures, with this absolutely outrageous character who is almost impossible to summarise on paper.
SO, TO SUM UP…
A Madea Homecoming is a fascinatingly terrible comedy that exposes most of the world to Tyler Perry’s outrageous creation for the first time, in a film that despite its awful filmmaking, writing and acting, is so bonkers that you’re completely left in awe by its awfulness.