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Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas (2013)

| December 14, 2013 | 0 Comments

I will admit that it is somewhat by design that I arrived late to the cult of Tyler Perry and by extension to the fatuous imbecile whose perplexing popularity inspires him to put on a dress and a grey wig. Either you get onboard with this Madea character or you don’t. Personally, I don’t. I find the character grating, like fingernails on a blackboard; an outdated stereotype that sets the course of African-Americans back at least three quarters of a century. I know it sounds like I’m being a stick in the mud, but seriously, every time I see this character I feel a desperate need to be anywhere else. She’s a motor-mouthed battle-axe somewhere in her 70s who perpetually dresses in muumuus and spouts ignorance one minute and biblical platitudes the next.

What’s interesting is that despite the title, Madea really has nothing to do with Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas.  The character appears in a plot that she’s not involved in and then just kind of buzzes around it.  There really isn’t any point to the character being in the movie.  When she is, she becomes part of set pieces that are slapped together like pieces and parts of a bad sitcom.  At one moment, she’s fussing about wrapping paper; another she makes a pit stop during a road trip to use the restroom and finds a Klan meeting; the rest of the time she sits on the sidelines and watches the plot go by.

This is my second exposure to this character after the bizarrely ham-fisted I Can Do Bad All By Myself (a title that applied most aptly to Perry’s talent as a filmmaker).  Both films, to be honest, are a chore to sit through if you aren’t in love with Perry’s alter ego. While Christmas is slightly better than the previous film, that’s basically comparing ointment to suppository – take a look at my rating. What comes to light in this film, and in last year’s laughably clumsy melodrama Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor is how inept Perry is as a filmmaker.

I’m not kidding, A Madea Christmas is so badly shot and so poorly edited that for a time I wondered if I was watching a rough cut of the film. There are moments when characters move out of the frame and the cameraman doesn’t know what to do, so he simply zooms in on the actor left on the screen. There are moments during dialogue scenes that the camera focuses on a character who isn’t talking and clearly the actor doesn’t know he/she is being filmed. There are scenes and dialogue that simply stop as if the actors are signaling for another take.

Not that the story of Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas would have been any better with improved production values. This is a moronic film. It opens with an insufferable comic set-piece that finds Madea working with her great-niece Eileen (Anna-Maria Horsford) in a department store dressed as Santa Claus. I could say that shenanigans ensue except that while the idea of having Madea work customer service would seem to be a perfect comic opportunity for the character, the scene lasts five minutes before she is abruptly dismissed for opening her big mouth.  Advertising plays up the fact that this idea is the movie, but no, like a lot of subplots in this movie, it is brought up and then never dealt with again.

That idea dropped, the plot quickly moves to a country town somewhere in Alabama (which, based on the offensive and outdated stereotypes presented, should be noted kun-tree) where Madea travels with Eileen to visit her daughter Lacey (Tika Sumpter) who doesn’t want her mother to visit for Christmas because she’s hiding the fact that she’s engaged to a white man – Ho HO! What could come of that is developed in a particularly offensive subplot in which Eileen becomes convinced that Lacey’s fiancé and her parents (Kathy Najimy and Larry the Cable Guy) are members of the Klan. Why? Well, she walked in on her parents while the father had a bedsheet over his head. Yeah! It’s also so we can have a lot of speechifying about race relations and getting along, which Tyler Perry delivers with a sledge hammer.

The rest of the plot involves the town, a farming community, that has hit hard times ever since a dam was built by Evil Soulless Corporation Incorporated. They’re main struggle in the movie is to have an annual jubilee that somehow will keep the town from going under financially. I’m not exactly sure how the jubilee is suppose to help, or why the farmers are harvesting their crops in December. I’m also not sure why Tanner (Chad Michael Murray), one of the neighboring farmers who lives close to Connor, insist that he not grow corn since he himself grows corn despite the fact that Connor has developed a way to grow corn without water. I may not know so much about farming, but I never thought it was a problem for two farmers to grow the same crop – and also that corn can’t grow without water!!

This is an illustration of a long list of things that – based on the films he makes – that Terry doesn’t know about. In I Can Do Bad All By Myself, it becomes clear that he has a misunderstanding of how AA and child protective services work. In Temptation, it becomes clear that he has a misunderstanding of how the business world works and how therapy works. Here, it becomes clear that he has a misunderstanding of how agriculture works and how small local governments work. I don’t know if it’s just him if he thinks his audience won’t notice. Rarely have I ever seen a filmmaker who has less respect for his audience’s basic understanding of the world.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2013) View IMDB Filed in: Comedy