Film Review: ‘Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas’

Tyler Perrys A Madea Christmas

An exceptionally poor piece of holiday cash-in product, rushed and ungainly even by the low standard set by Tyler Perry's seven previous Madea films.

To certain moviegoers, the notion of Tyler Perry’s Madea and Larry the Cable Guy volleying one-liners back and forth before segueing into ham-fisted discussions of racial tolerance may seem the stuff of unspeakable fever dreams. But there’s a more positive way to view it: If the most grotesque cinematic caricatures of Southern black femininity and working-class white masculinity, respectively, can find some common ground, perhaps there’s hope for the rest of us after all. That silver lining aside, “Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas” is an exceptionally  poor piece of holiday cash-in product, rushed and ungainly even by the low standard set by Perry’s seven previous Madea films, yet it should be every bit as profitable.

Though “A Madea Christmas” is nominally adapted from his play of the same name, Perry has strangely crafted an entirely different story and cast of characters for this film, with the lone holdover being his titular ill-tempered matriarch. After trying out some spotty vaudevillian routines as a Santa-clad department-store employee over the opening reel, Madea (Perry) is recruited by her friend/relative Eileen (Anna Maria Horsford) for a road trip from Atlanta to small-town Alabama. Eileen’s schoolteacher daughter, Lacey (Tika Sumpter), recently moved to rural Bucktussle – either a stand-in for, or misspelling of, Bug Tussle, Ala. – after eloping with her white paramour, Conner (Eric Lively), whose existence, and race, Lacey has kept secret from her mother. When Eileen arrives for a surprise Christmas visit, Lacey introduces her husband as the “farm boy.”

Also inexplicably in tow with Madea and Eileen is Lacey’s high-school boyfriend, Oliver (JR Lemon), a corporate bigwig of some kind with whom Lacey has reconnected while seeking a corporate sponsor for her school’s annual Christmas jubilee, which the local farmers rely on financially after a newly built dam decimated their crops.

More complications arise when Conner’s hayseed parents (Larry the Cable Guy, Kathy Najimy), arrive in town for a visit, with the whole family now enlisted to continue Lacey’s charade for the increasingly unpleasant Eileen. (The decision to cast a black woman as the unrepentant bougie bigot who confuses her white in-laws for “the help” could have been interestingly subversive in other hands, though Perry does very little with it.) Furthermore, the corporate sponsor for the town jubilee turns out to be the very same company that built the dam that ruined the local farmlands, though this seems to matter far less to the townsfolk than the company’s insistence on secularizing the Christmas festivities, which allows Perry to throw some particularly patronizing scraps of red meat to any Bill O’Reilly devotees who may have wandered into the theater.

However predisposed (or not) one might be to appreciating their signature personae, Perry and Larry’s scenes together are easily the highlights of the film, as they at least provide these shticksters with the opportunity to bounce old-timey banter off one another, rather than simply performing to the camera. Other comic setpieces range from amiably cliched (Madea’s malaprop-heavy summary of the Book of Luke) to jaw-droppingly awful, reaching a particularly painful nadir when Larry’s ghost-themed sexual role playing causes Eileen to mistake him for a Klansman. Subplots, including a half-hearted treatise on bullying and an adorable little boy (Noah Urrea) with dreams of singing in the Christmas pageant, are scattered artlessly here and there, as are bit roles for long-forgotten viral video sensations Antoine “Bed Intruder” Dodson and  Kimberly “Sweet Brown” Wilkins.

As a director, Perry seems to have picked up several tricks over the years, yet his obvious disinterest in maintaining a consistent professional tone often proves hysterical. This is the type of enterprise in which Perry will stage a decent half-minute looping dolly shot through the interior of a house, yet wait until nearly the end the film to include establishing shots of key locations. Several botched line readings add some unintentional spice to the more hackneyed stretches of dialogue, and Perry’s insistence on switching scenes via clip art-quality graphic wipes (cartoon Christmas bells and mistletoe, trailing CG glitter) is possibly the funniest element of the whole endeavor.

Film Review: 'Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas'

Reviewed at the Grove, Los Angeles, Dec. 12, 2013. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 105 MIN.

Production

A Lionsgate release of a Lionsgate and Tyler Perry Studios production. Produced by Perry, Ozzie Areu, Matt Moore.

Crew

Directed, written by Tyler Perry, from his play. Camera (color, Deluxe prints), Alexander Gruszynski; editor, Maysie Hoy; music, Christopher Young; music supervisor, Joel C. High; production designer, Eloise Crane Stammerjohn; costume designer, Johnetta Boone; sound (Dolby Digital/Datasat), Chris Duffy; supervising sound editor, Mike Wilhoit; re-recording mixers, Joe Barnett, Marshall Garlington; special effects coordinator, David Fletcher; visual effects, Crafty Apes; visual effects supervisor, Chris LeDoux; assistant director, Donald Murphy; casting, Kim Coleman.

With

Tyler Perry, Anna Maria Horsford, Larry the Cable Guy, Chad Michael Murray, Kathy Najimy, Tika Sumpter, Eric Lively, JR Lemon, Noah Urrea, Jonathan Chase, Alicia Witt, Antoine Dodson, Kimberly Wilkins, Lisa Whelchel

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  1. Claudia says:

    Pardon my typos and please don’t be such a critic to point them out! Its merely a typo and not a lack of education. What I ment to say was,,, “Such a horrible thing to say about someone who only brings laughter. Tyler Perri is amazing. He must be doing something right.

  2. Claudia says:

    Such a horrible thimg to say about someone who has only brings laughter. Tyler Perri is amazing! He must be doing something right.

  3. Roy says:

    This review is worse than the movie. Who is the critic writing this review for, another critic. The average moviegoer does not relate to the language used in this review. The critic should look at their language and decide who the connection should be with when these reviews are written.

  4. MDoris says:

    Film Critic 101: Tyler Perry’s comedic offering…levity and laughter for the masses…revisit Sullivan’s Travels , 1941.

  5. JC says:

    Please, someone stop Tyler Perry from making any more films! These films are the most horrible attempt at a 1st grade humor.
    Take the $10 that you would spend on this movie, and throw it under a running lawn mower…Way more entertaining.
    Stupid…Stupid…Stupid!!!!

  6. JK Sims says:

    I thought it was good fun, and has only one explosion! Sick of murder and detectives and hideous hospital scenes? None in here. My favorite part was the Madea school room scene and her mode of Christian reprimand. Good acting (I know, I grew up in Birmingham.), and the boy is a superstar.

    • Eric says:

      Looks like this critic has no humor. But thats with most of them they forgort whats funny and fun because its a job for them. ALL of the Medea’s movies are AWSOME. Caint wait to see this one. But for the Critic’s out there try enjoying things for once and enjoy life. :)

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