‘Madea’s Family Reunion’


Tyler Perry’s gospel comedies are crude and stagy; as moralizing, they’re earnest and exploitative in ways that can’t be disentangled. But for pure schizophrenia—a bone-jarring collision of slapstick, problem drama, wish-fulfillment fantasy, and come-to-Jesus sermonizing—they’re a more honest expression of the nation’s inner tumult than a lot of better movies. Again playing three roles—straight-shooting grandma Madea, trickster Uncle Joe, and dull goody-good lawyer Brian—the soft, round-faced Perry suggests nothing so much as LaWanda Page and Redd Foxx bursting out of one weirdly placid Demond Wilson. But here, Madea isn’t the eruptive force she was in Diary of a Mad Black Woman. The movie needs a lot more of her comic combustion and less domestic-abuse soap opera and self-righteous speechifying, even if Cicely Tyson and Maya Angelou deliver the speeches. Still, Perry’s vaudevillian shamelessness and indifference to committee-approved taste are energizing and frequently jaw-dropping—as when a wronged woman avenges herself with boiling grits, to the tune of an Al Green song.

Archive Highlights