In his career as a writer, director, actor, mogul, and one-man filmmaking factory, Tyler Perry has given us shamelessly over-the-top demon-yuppie melodrama; exuberantly dirty-minded dress-up burlesque; squeaky-clean family soap opera; a rare bid for prestige with his 2010 adaptation of “For Colored Girls”; and, in last year’s “Boo! A Madea Halloween,” his message-movie version of a fright-night comedy. But with “Tyler Perry’s Boo 2! A Madea Halloween,” Perry pushes into novel terrain. He has made a slasher movie, or a satire of a slasher movie, or the world’s most purposefully ineffectual slasher movie, or something. Even if you’re just looking for a Tyler Perry night out, be afraid, be very afraid. (One qualification: Uncle Joe gets some tasty nasty lines.)
On her 18th birthday, Tiffany (Diamond White), the parochial-school heroine of the first “Boo!,” with her normal-girl-meets-Teen-Vogue generic Barbie-doll hauteur, is invited to another Halloween frat party thrown by the geek muscleheads of Upsilon Theta. Perry stages an expository scene in front of the frat house that feels like it takes 10 rambling minutes to establish that, yes, the character of Jonathan (Yousef Erakat), who’s like Vin Diesel crossed with Arnold Horshack, is still on board as Tiffany’s unlikely love interest; and that the party is going to take place at Derrick Lake, a woodsy “Friday the 13th” sort of place where a handful of kids were murdered on a fateful night in 1976.
Tiffany’s beleaguered dad, Brian, played by Perry in one of those roles that requires no stylized costume and no sense of humor, thinks that it would be a terrible idea for her to go to the party. But he’s overruled by his ex-wife, Debrah (Taja V. Simpson), who has just given Tiffany her own car: a snazzy burnt-orange Mini-Cooper. Let the battle between discipline and permissiveness begin.
If Hollywood has learned how to do anything over the last 40 years, it’s to charge a frat party with mad energy. But the party in “Boo 2!” makes you think, “Yes, this really does look like it was shot at Tyler Perry’s film studio in Atlanta,” because it’s threadbare in the worst way: perfunctorily lit and even more thinly written. The guys and girls gather, and there isn’t a halfway developed character among them; the bacchanal fizzles before it starts. Then the DJ fades out, the dancing stops, and the banal mock terror commences.
The couples who sneak off in order to hook up encounter a spectral figure draped in long black hair, like the girl in the “Ring” films, the hair parting to reveal a slashed face that makes you wonder: Did Perry intend all this to look like a special effect purchased in a dime-store costume shop? (The answer, it turns out, is yes, though that doesn’t make it any more satisfying.) And that’s just the warm-up for a pair of chainsaw-wielding killers in gas masks.
The reason this is supposed to be funny is that Madea has decided to save Tiffany (though given that there hasn’t been an incident at Derrick Lake in 40 years, you’d think everyone could relax a bit). Driving there in her beat-up Cadillac, she brings along her posse of ancient cranks, including Aunt Bam (Cassi Davis), her lips welded into a defensive frown, and Hattie (Patrice Lovely), with her lispy baby voice that can mangle any syllable known to man.
Mostly, though, there is Joe (played by Perry), with his mischievous beady eyes and Brillo pad of white hair, who in “Boo 2” takes over the role of Outrageous Force of Nature from Madea. He’s a lewd and crusty old man who fancies himself a pimp, and Perry gives him some lines that are simultaneously groan-worthy and funny in their utter lack of taste. “You had the pony,” says Joe to his divorced daughter-in-law, “you didn’t have the stallion!” When he’s told to pray for Tiffany, he says, “No! Pimps don’t pray. The ho’s is the prey!” (Hey, I don’t write this stuff, I just report it.) It’s not that the lines are good, or even that they’re supposed to be — it’s that Tyler Perry so believes in the egotistical chintziness of their mid-20th-century inner-city strut. Joe is the one character in the movie who’s impervious to fear, because he’s so caught up in his geriatric blaxploitation nostalgia.
Tyler Perry hasn’t generally been in the business of sequels, but apart from Joe’s overly salty soul-food patter, this one has a joyless, obligatory, cardboard feeling that marks it as one of Perry’s least satisfying films. He should really now go for something a little more out there, like a Madea origin story — or, better yet, try to pack some of the more richly layered intrigue he achieved on his TV series “The Haves and Have Nots” into his movies. The box office, of course, will probably vindicate “Boo 2!,” but the time is overdue for Tyler Perry to throw a wrench into the assembly line.