THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
"TYLER PERRY'S BOO! A MADEA HALLOWEEN"
In the movie Top Five, Chris Rock plays a comic actor trying to stretch by making a heavy dramatic film. At one point, he laments that no one is going to see his picture because they're all seeing Boo! A Madea Halloween. It's a throwaway joke, but one that nevertheless has turned into a reality. Regrettably, that one gag in Rock's picture is funnier than the entirety of Tyler Perry's movie.
Perry plays single father Brian. His teenage daughter Tiffany (Diamond White) has plans to sneak out with her friends to attend a Halloween party at a local college fraternity. Because he has to work that night, Brian calls in his feisty aunt Madea (also played by Perry) to keep an eye on her. Tiffany slips out anyway, so Madea and her elderly cohorts Aunt Bam (Cassi Davis) and Hattie (Patrice Lovely) storm the frat house. That doesn't sit well with the brothers, who hatch a scheme to scare the wits out of her.
Madea has always worked better as a supporting character than as a lead. She's funny, but also fairly one-note. She rants and raves about things in a sassy manner, occasionally exploding into a burst of violence when something angers her enough. Boo! is 103 minutes of that. Putting the character into spooky Halloween scenarios, or more heavily spoofing horror movie conventions, could have amounted to a good time. Instead, it only yields one scene after another in which Madea yells at people. A couple moments earn a chuckle. Mostly, though, they elicit a bored rolling of the eyes.
Tyler Perry's body of work is both admirable and frustrating. At their best, such as 2009's I Can Do Bad All By Myself, his films combine uplifting religious messages with stories that contain both humor and deeply-felt examinations of morality. They may be heavy-handed, but they're sincere. Recent years, however, have found Perry sending out some strange vibes. His 2013 drama Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor gave AIDS to every single one of the characters who committed infidelity during the course of the story. The message seemed to be that if you cheat, you deserve to contract the disease. Boo!, meanwhile, has a 15-minute scene in which Madea and friends lecture Brian on the importance of delivering an “ass whupping” to children when they misbehave. No children are actually beaten in the film, although it does feature Brian laying down some old-school I'm your parent and you'll do what I tell you to do! structure. What's disconcerting here is the idea that giving unruly children a beating is played for laughs. We're expected to find it funny, for instance, that Madea put Brian on life support when he was a kid.
Beyond that problem and the missed opportunity of playing up the scare angle, Boo! A Madea Halloween suffers from repetitive jokes (old people smoking pot or talking about sex) and a tendency among the actors to play to the rafters. Subtlety has never been a Tyler Perry strong suit, but the performances here are so over-the-top that they become shrill. You just want to turn the volume down on everybody.
There's no doubt that Perry is a talented guy with a singular voice. He's made some good films, others that are not so good. This one falls in the “not so good” category. Dropping Madea into a comic Halloween adventure should have been a recipe for fun. Dropping her into one that recycles jokes and celebrates the virtues of beating children proves to be the exact opposite of fun.
( 1/2 out of four)
Tyler Perry's Boo! A Madea Halloween is rated PG-13 for drug use and references, suggestive content, language, some horror images and thematic material. The running time is 1 hour and 43 minutes.
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