×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Tyler Perry’s 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.

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

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.

Popular on Variety

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

More Film

  • Julie Andrews

    Julie Andrews Selected for AFI's Life Achievement Award

    The American Film Institute Board of Trustees has selected Julie Andrews as the recipient of the 48th AFI Life Achievement Award. The award will be presented to Andrews on April 25 in Los Angeles. The ceremony will be telecast on TNT. “Julie Andrews is practically perfect in every way,” said Kathleen Kennedy, chair of the [...]

  • 4127_D001_00007_RC Phyllis Logan stars as Mrs.

    'Downton Abbey' to Dominate Box Office Weekend With $30 Million

    The feature film version of “Downton Abbey” is heading for an impressive $30 million opening weekend at 3,079 sites for an easy victory at the North American box office, early estimates showed Friday. The launch of Brad Pitt’s space drama “Ad Astra” will land in second with about $20 million, while Sylvester Stallone’s action-thriller “Rambo: [...]

  • BETWEEN TWO FERNS, 2019, PH_0027.RAF

    Film Review: 'Between Two Ferns: The Movie'

    If you’re a fan of “Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis,” the fake public-access talk show that Zach Galifianakis has been hosting online, for three to six minutes a pop, over the last 10 years, then you’ll probably like “Between Two Ferns: The Movie,” the snark-lite 82-minute road movie that Galifianakis and his director and [...]

  • The Irishman

    Martin Scorsese, Frances McDormand, Donald Sutherland Join Lineup of France's Lumiere Festival

    Martin Scorsese’s eagerly awaited Netflix movie “The Irishman” wasn’t completed on time to be shown at the Cannes Film Festival, but Thierry Fremaux, Cannes’s topper, managed to pin down the high-profile movie and Scorsese himself for the upcoming Lumiere festival in Lyon next month. Dedicated to heritage movies, the Lumiere festival was created 10 years [...]

  • 'Aladdin' Star Mena Massoud Calls for

    'Aladdin' Star Mena Massoud Calls for a Broader Diversity of Storytelling in Movies and TV

    The star of “Aladdin,” Egyptian-Canadian actor Mena Massoud, called for a greater diversity of storytelling in movies and television when he spoke at the glamorous opening ceremony Thursday of the 3rd edition of Egypt’s El Gouna Film Festival. Massoud, whose credits include Amazon’s “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” and Hulu’s “Reprisal,” lauded “the power of art” [...]

  • 4127_D015_00199_RC(l-r) Laura Carmichael stars as Lady

    Box Office: 'Downton Abbey' Beats 'Ad Astra,' 'Rambo: Last Blood' on Thursday Night

    “Downton Abbey,” the movie continuation of the hit TV series centering on the Crawley family, has won Thursday previews with $2.1 million from 2,800 North American locations. Meanwhile, Brad Pitt’s space drama “Ad Astra” has launched with $1.5 million in previews, while Sylvester Stallone’s action-thriller “Rambo: Last Blood” scooped up $1.3 million at nearly 2,900 [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content