"Funny But Flawed Forgiveness"
TYLER PERRY’S MADEA’S BIG HAPPY FAMILY is the 11th film in just five years from the moviemaking machine that is Tyler Perry. He stars in drag as the title character of Madea, a loud-mouthed, wisecracking and sometimes abusive woman who’s often misguided but always loving at heart and in charge of nearly any situation life finds her or her troubled friends and family in.
The main story centers on the travails of Shirley (Loretta Devine), a sweet middle-aged matriarch of a large yet clashing family. When she receives a diagnosis that cancer has returned to her body and is likely to kill her soon, she wants to gather her children and their families under her roof one last time to share the sad news with them at once. However, while they all come over, they clash so quickly that she never even makes her announcement and continues to worry if peace will ever reach her family.
Among the family’s subplots is one grandson who’s a teenage single father. He’s torn between earning an honest living and setting a good example for his baby son, and engaging in one final drug deal to make a lot of money and impress both his current girlfriend and his ex-girlfriend, who’s the mother of his baby. Also, one of Shirley’s sons is constantly mocked by his wife and son, while Shirley’s daughter has become a cold, money-obsessed woman who harbors sad secrets that prevent her from properly showing love to her husband.
Amid all of this emotional turmoil lurks the presence of brash older relative Madea, whom Perry milks for every last drop of comedic energy as she bosses everyone around her – family or stranger – and the marijuana-obsessed and lustful Aunt Bam. They are supposed to provide comic relief, but the level of drug humor is so excessive that it almost renders the film inappropriate and nearly negates the film’s many good qualities. However, the family finally winds up on the “Maury” TV show in a humorous final showdown that expertly satirizes the popular yet morally bankrupt reality talk show and turns its destructive portrayal of dysfunctional families on its head.
MADEA’S BIG HAPPY FAMILY may be more of a mixed bag than some of Tyler Perry’s other movies, especially his most successful ones.
[SPOILERS] For example, there are numerous family arguments, most of which center around men who have abdicated their Biblical role as fathers and leaders in the family and marriage and are now disrespected by their wives and children. These are all resolved in a positive fashion, in which the men reclaim their proper roles and respect, however. One teen father has to struggle against the temptation to re-enter drug sales for easy money after having turned against crime following a stint in prison. His current girlfriend constantly mocks his lack of money and demands things, while his ex-girlfriend and mother of his child completely disrespects him and even lies to the neighborhood and his family that he’s still engaging in drug dealing and other criminal activity. Ultimately, he stands his ground and puts the two ladies in their places properly, providing a good example to young men who are also subjected to single fatherhood.
The main character of Madea, portrayed by the writer/director/producer Perry, berates and yells at fast-food employees who are lazy and unprepared, before driving her car right into the restaurant causing mass destruction of the property and then throwing things at the employees before driving away and speeding from the scene of her crime. She also slaps her ex-husband, knocking him comically to the floor, when he expresses comical fear over a prostate exam. Also, she later slaps a teenage boy while the family argues during an appearance on the “Maury” TV talk show.
Meanwhile, Aunt Bam – a new character to the Perry oeuvre of films – is an incessant marijuana smoker who lies and jokes about her use of the drug while engaging in deception against her own family to hide her smoking. She also makes a bad example of a Christian by proclaiming her faith in Jesus throughout and saying the drug use is no big deal. Other family members do criticize her for her smoking the drug, but overall it is played for laughs throughout the film. She also lustfully rubs against a handsome young male doctor and makes crude sexual comments about him as well. [SPOILERS] By the end, however, the central mother character and the more decent of her adult children band together to save the day in moral fashion. Ultimately, the family resolves its difficulties through forgiveness and their faith in Jesus.
TYLER PERRY’S MADEA’S BIG HAPPY FAMILY offers more of Perry’s wildly popular Madea character than any of his other films, so his fans should be thrilled. However, Perry is considered a divisive filmmaker who has many ardent detractors as well who might find the emphasis on his cartoonish drag character more annoying than ever. As a filmmaker, he’s better at the serious moments and the portrayals he draws in showing characters’ emotions than he is with some of the over-the-top attempts at humor. As always, the Perry’s new Madea movie veers wildly between serious and humorous moments, but in the end, the abiding Christian faith at the core of his characters shines through and leads them to a positive and loving resolution of their problems. However, the movie’s foul language, miscellaneous immorality and pot jokes warrant extreme caution.
(CCC, BB, Pa, Ab, LLL, V, S, A, DDD, MM) Very strong Christian worldview with strong moral elements extolling Jesus, faith and family forgiveness as the most important elements of life, as a mother attempts to bring peace to her clashing family when she receives a dire cancer diagnosis, but the movie is marred by an incredible excess of marijuana use by two of its main characters, Madea and Aunt Bam, as well as numerous wisecracks about marijuana use and verbal justifications for it and some Christians misbehave but are also rebuked, one explicitly; nearly 50 light obscenities (mostly the “h” word, with a couple of “d” words), as well as a few mentions of Jesus’ name in vain; some comic violence such as slapping and main character gets angry at fast food people and drives her car through the building when they act lazy and unprepared; some sexual references to fornication and having babies out of wedlock, plus one comical villain lustfully rubs against a handsome young male doctor and makes crude sexual comments; no nudity; some alcohol use; smoking and excessive marijuana references and jokes, plus some references to drug dealing; and, strong miscellaneous immorality and problems, some of it played for laughs and some of it rebuked or resolved positively, including numerous family arguments, lying, uncontrolled anger, vandalism, lack of respect, demanding girlfriend mocks boyfriend, and some Christians don’t live up to their faith, though one is strongly rebuked and another not so much.
TYLER PERRY’S MADEA’S BIG HAPPY FAMILY is the 11th film in just five years from the moviemaking machine that’s Tyler Perry. This time, Madea springs into action when her niece, Shirley, a sweet middle-aged matriarch of a large yet clashing family, receives a diagnosis that cancer has returned to her body. Shirley gathers her children and their families one last time to share the sad news with them at once. However, while they all come over, they clash so quickly that Shirley never even makes her announcement and continues to worry if peace will ever reach her family. Meanwhile, Madea and pot-smoking Aunt Bam cause trouble of other kinds, while Shirley’s children have their own problems.
MADEA’S BIG HAPPY FAMILY is somewhat of a mixed bag. As usual, Tyler Perry’s new Madea movie veers wildly between comical and serious moments. Ultimately, Shirley’s family resolves its difficulties through forgiveness and their faith in Jesus. However, there’s excessive marijuana references and jokes, numerous but mostly light obscenities, many family arguments, and some mature themes. The foul language and pot jokes seem to detract too much from the more heartwarming, successful moments. MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution.