Tyler Perry’s Madea Family Funeral is yet another example of Tyler Perry’s bizarre approach to making movies. Evidence suggests that Tyler Perry acquires a script for a simple, dramatic movie and then, for reasons that only make sense to him, he inserts himself dressed as a woman and that woman’s brethren doing incredibly unfunny schtick that undermines the drama of the actual story taking place.
With that in mind, I am going to review this movie in two pieces. I am going to review the movie that Family Funeral would be without Madea and the movie that Perry is making with Madea and her cast of wacky characters. This will demonstrate to you the tonal whiplash of attempting to follow a Tyler Perry movie. It’s honestly, exhausting for someone who watches movies for a living to watch what is essentially two movies playing at the same time.
Family Funeral features an ensemble cast that includes Ciera Payton, Rome Flynn and Courtney Burrell, as siblings, Silivia, Jesse and AJ, who have returned home to Georgia to throw their parents, Viane and Anthony (Jen Harper and Derek Morgan) an anniversary party. Along with them are their spouses including David Otunga as Silvia’s husband, Will, Gia (Aeriel Miranda), Jesse’s fiancee, and Carol (KJ Davis), AJ’s wife.
AJ however is sleeping with Gia behind his brother’s back and this is how AJ happens to be on hand when his dad is found dead in a hotel room having suffered a massive heart attack while cheating on Viane with a family friend, Renee (Quin Walters). Now, what was planned as a happy occasion is now going to a funeral at which family secrets will be exposed and lives will be altered forever.
In the other movie inside Madea’s Family Funeral, Madea (Tyler Perry) has been invited to the Anniversary party for Viane and Anthony. What relationship does Madea have to this family? Who knows, but her brother Heathrow (Tyler Perry) has invited her and her other brother Joe (Tyler Perry) and Madea’s pals Hattie (Patrice Lovely) and Aunt Bam (Cassi Davis) to come to this party and they’ve tapped Joe’s son Brian (Tyler Perry) to drive them to Atlanta.
It’s anyone’s guess how Madea is connected to this family in Atlanta. This family has not been mentioned before in previous movies, specifically Madea’s Family Reunion, but that only matters if you are likely me and demand that a movie proceed with some sort of internal logic. Tyler Perry is not like me. Tyler Perry has no need of internal logic, plot, even characters are really only a suggestion of a series of broad traits.
The entirety of the Madea portion of Madea’s Family Reunion could be removed from this film and it would not affect the plot whatsoever. Sure, Madea and her gang are also on hand when Anthony’s body is found, in S & M gear, in a hotel. We assume he’s in S & M gear, based on what we see, that was likely an on-set improv that Perry liked and left in the movie despite the lack of visual evidence at hand.
The discovery of the fact that a father and, allegedly, a family friend has been found to be cheating on his wife and has been found dead by his eldest son in a hotel room with a family friend, in S & M gear, is so jarring that neither the comedy nor the extremes of dramatic emotions are allowed to land in any way. A man has just died but that doesn’t mean that wacky characters can’t do awkward, unfunny schtick like attempt to perform oral sex on the corpse in place of CPR. That’s a pleasant gag that exists in this movie.
Tyler Perry, by the way, does not care for CPR. CPR makes Tyler Perry profoundly uncomfortable as he equates blowing air into a dying person’s chest with kissing and when the dying person is a man then it becomes a gay panic situation. Yes, CPR on a man is an occasion for gay panic jokes because being gay needs just a little more unnecessary stigma attached. Performing CPR means your sexuality is questionable somehow. Are we sure that this movie was made in this century?
I get that Madea’s ‘political incorrectness’ is supposedly part of her charm but that charm is lost on me. Once, this character was a bizarre moral center of a movie universe. Then, Perry decided to change her backstory from a scolding southern grandma/avenging angel to that of a former gangster, prostitute, drug addict stripper who is also a wise old sage dispensing moral judgments from an unearned high horse.
Whiplash is the lasting effect of a Tyler Perry movie. On one side is a serious family drama about lies and infidelity and the other side is a broad burlesque of elderly former criminals and drug addicts doing unfunny schtick. I thought it was bad when Madea wielded a chainsaw in the midst of the super tense drama about spousal abuse in Diary of a Mad Black Woman but at least at that point Madea was just a weird side note.
Now that Madea is the center of the universe in Perry’s movies she’s become a monster lording her unfunny references to gang life, pimps and ho’s over the top of otherwise half baked but serious dramas. It’s the worst kind of mash up, as if an elderly version of rapper Lil Kim were dropped into the middle of a reboot of Parenthood. These two things don’t go together. The drama is half baked at best and the comedy is so broad and schticky it’s like the worst episode of Def Comedy Jam in history.
I can see where the Madea character worked on a stage where the improv might feel organic and the setting might encourage such broad swings of tone but in a movie where editing and camera work and acting are necessary to the medium, this brand is ill-fitting. Perry’s style doesn’t mesh with the movies the way it, I assume, meshed with live audiences in the early 2000s when Perry developed the character of Madea on stages in church basements.
Tyler Perry has allegedly stated that this will be the final movie in the Madea franchise and if that is the case, good riddance. I genuinely have nothing nice to say about the character or the movies. I don't understand the appeal and I never will. That said, I don't buy that he's done with this character. Perry has proven to be a mercenary filmmaker throughout his career and while he has plenty of money, I will need some convincing to believe he is walking away from his cash cow.