It’s hard to talk about Tyler Perry. For starters, he oozes so much untapped talent that you’re always in shock when he delivers honest performances. Then there is Mabel “Madea” Simmons, whose films have skewed in quality as we grew alongside her. Diary of a Mad Black Woman (2005), like most of Madea’s ventures through the 2000s, has seen the tender touch of a creator with a vision; however, as the character shifted toward the 2010s, Madea started losing her sense of relatability, and the tomfoolery grew. It has become a cornerstone for Madea films – hell, we received Madea and Aunt Bam facing off against Zombies – it continues on A Madea Homecoming. What surrounds the film is mostly an over-embellished soap opera plotline that baits you into gasping or bridging into “oh no she didn’t” territory of responses while trying to keep any form of humor consistent.
Tyler Perry’s films attract a certain community that is easy to please, as they will seek out any possible enjoyment in them, despite how others view his thinly veiled plots to validate another 90-minute film. Immerse yourself in the community and you’ll see a different side to his formulas. A side where he cares too much about it – albeit many problems – his films hit a core that keeps us together, like a celebration of black actors and big women bodysuits, but that is due to the differences that derive from his stage adaptations. A Madea Homecoming is one of few stage-to-screen adaptations that are smaller in scale and focuses on conversational development instead of outlandish antics. We had a chance to have some fun at a Red Lobster, but it fizzles quickly so they can head back home.
Unfortunately, it causes the film to drown in its empty plot that is filled with twists, one of which is handled with the appropriate light to contrast the stigma with homosexuality in overly religious black households. It doesn’t play it for jokes, albeit the usual “we already knew” line, but it steers quickly toward a message about family and how love always triumphs. Unfortunately, that’s the only praise the film gets on the drama side, as another subplot from an episode of As The World Turns (1956 – 2010) looms in the shadows.
Amongst the many films, the drama in A Madea Homecoming is dryer than burnt toast. It overlooks and passes by various conflicts that can’t get played for laughs, like the debates surrounding excessive force, systematic racism, and more within the policing complex or a random description of the first romantic meeting like it was a mid-budget 2000s porn film – mind you this surrounds a conflict between Madea’s granddaughter, Laura, and her ex-husband Richard. It barely has the time to take itself seriously before a situation or scene turns askew, and that’s where the giggles and laughs become a bit more consistent. So if you take away the drama and keep the comedic elements… what do you get? A Madea stoner comedy?
Listen, there is a reason Tyler Perry makes films on a 20 Million budget or less and receives an optimal return. As it is, we can question why a man of his talent continues to deliver projects with little ingenuity and more lunacy while preserving Jesus’ spirit alive. However, at the end of the day, he makes certain elements work, and it touches the sensibilities of its audience. It was visible when I laughed/snorted at a scene where Madea delivers her pot cookie recipe to Mrs. Brown of Mrs. Brown’s Boys (2015 – 2018), a show from Ireland. Many of Mrs. Brown’s jokes come as typical pronunciation quips, usually playing off her accent – i.e. knickers. Continuing with these comedic oddities, Tyler Perry uses marijuana as a comedic foil, like when Mr. Brown decides he wants to fly after smoking a joint with Uncle Joe in the bathroom.
Fortunately, the plot takes a back seat while the interactions amongst the characters stay somewhat interesting. You want to see Madea randomly pull a gun out of nowhere and shoot at the roof because someone she has disdain for was trying to give a friendly hello, or watch as Mr. Brown floods his grill with gasoline and ultimately sets himself on fire. This all comes with its range of physical and cringe humor that hits on a more consistent level than its dramatic beats, though that isn’t hard to do.
However, as confusing as the inclusion of some characters from Mrs. Brown’s Boys is, at least it doesn’t get a double dose with some of Tyler Perry’s choices. The editing tries to mirror the flow of one of his stage plays, especially as the settings stay scarce. He notably cuts corners elsewhere, like when we see them at Great Grandson Tim’s college graduation. The crowd of the attendees is unbelievably small, and it mirrors with the graduates. It downplays how serious we should take the great-grandson’s summa cum laude speech as it reflects what has been happening at home. That is neither here nor there because the plot stays in the backseat for what is ultimately there for you to take away – laughs and prayer. It delivers on those fronts and if that is what you are looking for, then you’ll have a fun time.