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It boasts a few laughs, but overall, Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas ranks among Perry's least entertaining or substantive works.
It boasts a few laughs, but overall, Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas ranks among Perry's least entertaining or substantive works.
All Critics (35)
| Top Critics (17)
| Fresh (7)
| Rotten (28)
Larry the Cable Guy and Madea are an oddly perfect pairing. They're both comedians in drag - Larry just gets to wear pants
The same slapdash, lightweight effort as Madea in any other season, with a few Yuletide flourishes.
Slapdash, with dialogue and plot points that were cliches in Dickens' era, the pic sends up, then reaffirms, all the values the media sell us each holiday: compassion, forgiveness, tolerance.
The humor seems sour and perfunctory from the start.
When Madea is onscreen, at least you know what universe you are in, and there is something interesting and insane to watch. Otherwise, you are thrust into an abyss of meaninglessness ...
You can see, and hear, the clanking of his melodramatic machinery - the gears and pulleys of emotion - but by the time the movie is over, you've been wedged into those gears; they have you.
This Madea creaks as it starts, before predictable plot mechanics mesh for an upbeat finish, complete with a Christmas carol.
The problem is the treatment of racism breaks no new ground and represents the issues in the simplest most condescending form.
A toned down, crassly calculated attempt to expand the brand to a wider audience (see also: white people) and everybody is on their best behavior.
Here's the simple truth: If you like the character of Madea, who is filmmaker Tyler Perry in drag, you will like Perry's 'A Madea Christmas.' If you don't, or if you haven't 'met' Madea yet, then this probably isn't for you.
Perry's well-worn, play-to-the-nosebleeds schtick drowns out anything as far as basic craft.
Madea has some good line as does Larry the Cable Guy. The movie isn't laugh riot but it has some laughs and it also has a good message.
Only in movies are christians minorities and christianity isn't the dominant religion in the entirety of the United States. And, of course, not to mention the fact that they like to pretend that christianity is the only religion that matters and all others shouldn't be celebrated. I believe all religions are nonsense, but, in my opinion, there's nothing wrong with wishing someone a happy holiday instead of merry christmas. It just shows that there's far more diversity than there was in the country before, with people coming from various backgrounds and religions. So not EVERYONE is gonna celebrate the same thing during the holidays. This sort of intolerant 'my religion is more important than yours and I will let you know it' is simply an unacceptable message. But I'm not gonna get into a whole rant of the hypocrisy of christians because I won't end up reviewing this movie at all. It's all very ironic because the film, in a monologue by Kim, Conner's mother, to Eileen after she finds out her daughter is married to a white man, she makes it a point to say that the world has changed for the better. How there are more open hearts and open minds. That cognitive dissonance doe, as the kids would say. Tyler Perry is at odds with his own writing. Then again, nobody will ever accuse Tyler Perry of being a talented writer. Nobody will ever confuse his movies with truly great works of art. This movie is no different, of course. Look, the Madea character is amusing, even if it is an offensive racial stereotype, but I will never say that Tyler Perry doesn't do a good job as the character. I may not like the character at all, or Tyler Perry's movies even more so, but the guy is good at it. He adds a life and energy to the film that is hard to deny. Of course, the problem is the fact that he often sticks Madea in the background so other characters, and their terrible stories, can take the spotlight. I'm not saying a movie solely centered on Madea getting up to her antics would be any better, but it couldn't get any worse. The story in this film is horrendous, truly. Tyler Perry just doesn't know how to write drama, yet he keeps trying, hard as he might, to force dramatic stories around the Madea character, so she can give advice or whatever. Lacey, a black woman, marries Connor, a white man. Lacey knows her mother, Eileen, would disapprove so she keeps it hidden from her while letting her believe that Connor is just the farm help. Things get complicated once Connor's parents come to visit and Eileen starts to treat them, and Connor, like dog shit. It's really as bad as it sounds. Yet, and somehow, since Tyler Perry writes like he's the show-runner of a soap opera, this is one of his least "interesting" films in recent memory. Its message and moral is certainly heavy-handed, as is typical in Tyler Perry movies, but this feels like a special Christmas episode of one of Tyler's own TV series. It has that kind of quality of writing, acting, and cinematography. It's just not that good to be perfectly honest, not to mention that this was probably stretched out past its probably one hour running time. One thing was surprising though, Tyler Perry's and Larry the Cable Guy's, both of whom I don't really like that much, especially Larry, who's incredibly unfunny in my opinion, have some decent chemistry together. They crack some lame jokes together, racial jokes and whatnot, it's exactly what you'd expect, but there's a certain chemistry between them that's noticeable. If only the jokes between them were better. That's not to say there aren't some decent moments. Madea insulting people can lead to some amusing results. Though, unfortunately, the PG-13 setting sort of has her hold back on how truly cruel she could be. Then again, Tyler Perry wants to make something the entire family can sit down and enjoy. He has his audience, that's for sure, and he knows how to cater to their wants and needs. Cater is simply too nice of a word, he panders to them in the most shameless way possible. He's the only one that's truly making films for the black community, at least he's the most prominent and prolific filmmaker as of this moment. Independent films dealing with the real struggle blacks suffer through only find a small audience. And I get it, black people have it hard enough as it is in the United States, so they don't want to see films that tell them how hard they truly have it, because they already live it every day. Tyler Perry takes advantage of that with his films. It'd be one thing if his films were good, but none of his films that I've seen have been any good. I'm talking about the movies he's had a creative involvement in, JJ Abrams' Star Trek does not count. And I only stick with the Madea movies, because his other efforts just look even more terrible to me. I'm not a big fan of his melodramatic, soap opera storytelling. If it was campy enough that you'd get some unintentional laughs out of it, then it'd be one thing, but even that is missing. I'm not gonna get into a big rant about how bad Tyler Perry's movies are. But if you were a Madea fan before this film, then this gives you more of what you expect. He's preaching to the choir, essentially. Those unconverted simply won't find anything to like here. It's really quite bad honestly.
Good Tyler Perry movie. Standard in addressing important issues yet still makes you laugh. I really enjoyed it.
"Peeples" was bad, "Temptation" was a hilarious atrocity, but "A Madea Christmas" ends the 2013 Tyler Perry Stink-Pile Trilogy with a bang.
I had no plans to watch this movie, let alone in a theater and on opening night. Then one fall weekend, my pal decided to raise the stakes on our fantasy football match-up, and then Ronnie Hillman couldn't hold on to the ball, and I lost by four points. My punishment: seeing Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas in the theater. My friend and critic Ben Bailey has taken it upon himself to watch and review all the Madea films, so he was ready and planning to watch the latest. I accompanies him for one magical night of holiday messages bequeathed by a large man in drag pretending to be an old woman.
Madea (Tyler Perry) is called into action to help drive her sister Eileen (Ana Maria Horsford) to Alabama. Eileen wants to surprise her daughter, Lacey (Tika Sumpter), for Christmas. Lacey is working in a small-town as a teacher. Her husband, Conner (Eric Lively), is trying to engineer a new strain of corn to help his hometown confront a water shortage. There's just one problem. Eileen hasn't told her mom she got married... and to a white man. Lacey is worried that the news would kill her mother since Eileen has a weak heart. So Conner has to pretend to be a farmhand while Eileen visits. Then, unexpectedly, Conner's parents (Larry the Cable Guy, Kathy Najimy) arrive to spend Christmas with their family, but they too must get in on the act. The small town is also in trouble of losing lots of money if they cannot put together their annual Christmas Jubilee celebration. Lacey's ex-boyfriend Oliver (JR Lemon) swoops in to offer a corporate savior, but there are strings to attached, and he'd certainly like to get closer to Lacey.
I am about to type a string of words I never thought could possibly be put together in the English language: Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas, also starring thespian Larry thy Cable Guy, is not altogether terrible. I feel like a weight has been lifted just admitting this. Oh, let there be no question that this is a bad movie in just about every way, but the simply bad and poorly executed outweighs the terrible. To be fair my expectations could not have been any lower, especially after suffering through my first Tyler Perry movie ever this year, the earlier 2013 film, Temptation. This was my first Madea film. Part of my other entertainment was observing my audience, the mostly full theater on opening night, and charting their reactions to Madea and my own differences in opinion. I can't in good conscience suggest this is a reason for people to go see this movie, but there it is.
Every actor not named Perry or Cable Guy looks like they could sure use some more direction; they're hungry for it. Actually, Najimy (The Guilt Trip) and Larry make a good team and you're actually pleased when they enter the story, providing an alternative to Madea's shenanigans. I'll credit Perry with this twist: the redneck family is tolerant from day one and compassionate human beings and the conflict focuses on a black woman racist against white people. Although in the year 2013, this seems like a strangely dated conflict to get so worked up over. This is also the least grating Larry the Cable guy has ever been in a movie, including the Pixar Cars franchise. But these are acting professionals. The rest of the cast looks is filled with Pretty Bland Young People, all of who look like they'd rather be on a CW drama. Sumpter (Sparkle) in particular comes across like discount Zoe Saldana. Hey, there is a former CW star involved in this too, Chad Michael Murray (TV's un-canceable One Tree Hill, House of Wax) and while his character is dumb, the town's chief redneck, he's actually fine when you can make out what he's saying. But the best actor in the whole movie turns out to be Alicia Witt (Urban Legends, 88 Minutes) as Murray's put-upon wife. If there's anything approaching subtlety in this mess, it's through Witt's graceful performance of a woman struggling against her husband for what she believes is best for her child.
The Madea character, Perry's most famous alter ego, can have a numbing effect that mellows your judgment of an otherwise unlikable figure. Our introduction to the matriarch is her brief stint working at a retail store. She's unfailingly rude to customers asking ordinary questions, she's hostile, threatens violence readily, and then, when rightly fired, creates a scene and literally steals from the store. In mere minutes, I'm left with the impression that this elderly grandmother who looks like a linebacker is just a horrible human being and should be in jail. And this impression sticks for some time, that is, until you begin to adopt a Stockholm syndrome-like appreciation for her mean-spirited bickering and retaliation. As we sit and watch Eileen act like a horrible human being, so condescending and needlessly hurtful to her unknown in-laws, the balance of most terrible shifts, and we start to root for Madea because she's the only one who cuts through the nonsense, the only one to speak truth to Eileen's reproachful behavior. In the end, you may come to appreciate her being there to set people straight. I still think the whole Madea character is a large miscalculation on Perry's part, a character that's never as funny as he thinks it is (though eight movies in, so what do I know?). The constant string of malapropisms feels like the dying riffs of a deflated improv jag. There are several scenes that involve lines given off screen as if Perry is still experimenting with the scene. In the end credits bloopers, which are also not funny, it looks like Perry's shooting style is just to turn the camera on and say whatever. This is a character born to be a supporting player if utilized at all. Though her best asset is when here happens to be a worse character onscreen to whom she can focus her ire. So as long as Madea keeps starring in movies alongside more horrible human beings, we should be fine.
Part of my forgiveness with several of the film's sins goes back to its inception as a Christmas fable. You see these kinds of movies all the time on TV, where the threat of not having the small town's Christmas ceremony is going to bankrupt the whole town in an impenetrable dark cloud of holiday misery. These are the movies where plots hinge on silly things given way too much significance, and where solutions can be pulled out of nowhere and the film's family-friendly message tied up nicely in a bow. In other words, it's a world not meant to remotely echo our own reality. And so I ended up giving A Madea Christmas more leeway during the many, many times its onscreen actions conflicted with credulity, because it doesn't matter. So then...
Who cares if Conner is a college-educated scientist and doesn't know the difference between male and female cows? Who cares if Conner conducts cutting-edge bio-engineering in an open barn with, what appears to be, doing little more than pouring different liquids into different vials? Who cares that the town lawyer I so incompetent he can't be trusted to read a contract that is all of three pages? Who cares that catching a glimpse of a husband and wife in bed, with the husband under a sheet, is immediately interpreted as Klan membership, because what other possible explanations could there be? Who cares that there is a Klan meeting that Madea accidentally walks in on, and oh yes, they all happen to be in uniform? Who cares that the town's chief redneck bullies the mayor into firing a teacher when I'm pretty sure that duty is not under the mayor's direct powers? Who cares that for no reason there is a Naked Gun-style tracking shot that involves passing YouTube celebrities Sweet Brown ("Ain't nobody got time for that") and Antoine Dodson ("Hide your children and hide your wives...")? Who cares if a character believes saying things in public over a microphone to shame a corporation into charitable giving is tantamount to an unbreakable oral agreement? Who cares about the wanton violation of the separation of church and state throughout the film?
Let me dig into that last one for just a bit. Perry takes up the "War on Christmas" mantle and dominates his conclusion with this non-conflict conflict. Turns out the company that is saving the town's Christmas Jubilee festivity, thus saving jobs and keeping the beleaguered town afloat, has the audacity to request a secular ceremony. First off, this entire service is coordinated and produced by the local town's government, on government property, and already a violation of the reach of government and religion. Even their classrooms have giant wooden crosses in them. What about anyone in this town who doesn't happen to be Christian? I suppose anybody with differing religious beliefs is just not welcomed in this part of Alabama. But the most eye-rolling part is when characters screech that some vague omnipresent corporate or bureaucratic entity is taking away Christmas or stopping them from celebrating Christmas. NO ONE IS STOPPING YOU FROM CELEBRATING CHRISTMAS. Some of us just don't believe that it's government's place to advocate or do so on government property, and the courts agree. Anyway, it's an easy target for Perry and my crowd seemed to be nodding dutifully along to the whole "keep Christ in Christmas" message. It seems like a cheap way to unify the town, and it is.
Perry has been knocking out about two movies a year since he came onto the scene in 2005, and I still don't know if he properly knows how to adapt his skills to the screen. The tone is uneven and the comedy usually falls flat, but there are just moments that make you shake your head in befuddlement. This is the SECOND Perry movie this year where a mother has been lying to her daughter for decades about her father being dead when he really ran out of them. Perry also decides to fill his holiday film with Christmas-related wipes. One second we'll be watching some serious drama and then a giant animated Christmas tree will fly across the screen transitioning us to another. What? I've never seen this many wipes in a film short of a movie that had Star Wars in its title. From an acting standpoint, I still feel like Perry's direction is more theatrical, trying to play to the people in the cheap seats. Too many scenes feel rudderless, with assorted actors just feeding more lines to Madea so she can continue on a longer improvisation before somebody remembers to pick up the plot again. The film also ends immediately following the climax, the solution to the town's ails, without resolution. The camera pans up above the town and cue the end credits. It's a bit abrupt.
Then again after directing over ten movies, many starring the Madea character, there is little incentive for Perry to change his style. His brand has made him one of the most lucrative entertainers in the industry, and he has a thriving studio of his own in Georgia, pumping out content and giving lots of African-American actors valuable experience and exposure with parts that don't include Black Best Friend to the White Lead. Perry is a one-man industry and has legions of fans that will make any one of his movies a hit. They want what they want, and Perry is going to shovel it out to them. A Madea Christmas looks to be more of the same. It's generally leaden in its comedy, filled with heavy-handed messages, a loose narrative built around propping up Madea improv riffs, and the character's mean-spiritedness only really works when she's attacking a deserving party. I'll have to defer to Ben Bailey on where this ranks up there in the franchise (he said it may be the best), but for me, I was expecting terrible and was treated to mostly just bad. That's a victory. Merry Christmas everyone! Hallelujer.
Nate's Grade: C-
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