After eleven movies (though her cameo in Meet the Browns shouldn’t really count as a whole movie) Madea has ended her time on the silver screen. Given the character’s history, it was anyone’s guess what kind of movie Tyler Perry would send her off with. Even between two novelty Halloween entries the quality wildly diverges. Luckily, this is a good one. Madea’s going out on a high note.
Not only is A Madea Family Funeral one of the better Madea movies, it’s a return to form overall. We haven’t had what I’d call a typical Madea movie since’s 2011’s Madea’s Big Happy Family. Since then she’s been in three holiday films and the weird mainstream grab that was Madea’s Witness Protection. Funeral brings her back to what she does best: getting mixed up with extremely fucked up families. I’m so glad I got to see her yell at an adulterer one last time.
The story is pretty simple for all its surface complications. To be honest, it needs to be - the film is only 100 minutes long and spends many 10-15 minute chunks on aimless riffing from multiple Tyler Perrys. Madea, her straight-laced nephew Brian, and her ever-growing crew of misfits (brother Joe, a serial sexual harasser; Hattie a horny old lady with a speech impediment so thick I’m still not 100% sure if she drops the first Madea movie F-bomb here or not; and Aunt Bam, who seems to have lost all the horniness and stoner humor she came with in Big Happy Family in favor of just being dumb) all get in a car to attend the 45th wedding anniversary of some relatives. Instead, they stumble upon the husband in question mid-heart attack due to some extreme S&M sex with a longtime family friend. Okay, maybe it is a little complicated. But the humor and insanity really cuts through all that. For instance, Hattie tries to give the man CPR but sucks his dick instead. Tyler Perry, you still got it.
So the wedding anniversary quickly transforms into a funeral. Similar to the structure of the Why Did I Get Married movies, we deal with drama from a handful of messed up couples. Back in the day, they’d be the film’s primary focus, but Tyler Perry has long given his drama plots a shorthand treatment in favor of wacky extended sketches from his elderly characters. I sometimes get nostalgic for the old ways, but overall this is a good trade.
Adding to the peanut gallery this time is Joe and Medea’s brother Heathrow, also played by Tyler Perry. Heathrow is a legless fake war vet with one tooth and a tracheotomy voice box. Look, the jokes Perry mines from this setup are not sophisticated, but the way he modulates his physical performance to match the monotony of his robotic voice box delivery is the kind of bizarre comic brilliance I come to these things for. Eleven goddamn movies and only one with Heathrow. It’s a shame. Also a shame: Mr. Brown once again does not appear.
All the other trappings are here though. Perry makes fun of religion. The women are beautiful. The men (one hilarious guy in particular) are all ridiculously muscular. The good folks are weak suckers and the evil are heinous beyond reason. Joe and Hattie try to fuck everyone while Madea manages to get into everyone’s business and aver moral superiority despite being straight up horrific.
And then there’s the weird stuff. Madea and her crew get pulled over for a scene about police violence against black people that goes on forever and seems like it's about to say something of substance yet never does. Tyler Perry apparently does not understand how S&M ball gags work at all. Two characters - one a bearded white dude dressed like a woman, the other a young actress in obvious old lady makeup - appear and disappear at the funeral as if we’re supposed to know who they are. Above all, the film ends with a cameo so morally dubious it challenges that time Janet Jackson killed her husband in Why Did I Get Married Too only to be rewarded with The Rock.
Madea’s second decade on the big screen was odd. I like most of the movies (the second Halloween one is the only true stinker), but it really is nice to see her go out on one that feels a bit more like how we got to know her in the first place. It fills me with warmth, even if it is one of the most hateful films I’ve seen in a while.
And who knows? It’s not like she dies at the end. Plus, these things kind of star Joe lately anyway. Let’s just have a spinoff with him and Heathrow. I certainly wouldn’t complain about that.