Tyler Perry's A Madea Family Funeral

Tyler Perry says A Madea Family Funeral will be the final Madea movie, but the funeral of the title is not hers and she's still alive at the end, so take that claim with a grain of salt. The character has already done jail time, held a family reunion, had Christmas and Halloween adventures, and provided housing for a man in the witness protection program. What else is left but a funeral?

Perry once again portrays the sassy elderly woman. This time, she's asked to plan the funeral for a family member named Anthony. It's never made clear who he is in relation to Madea, or maybe I just missed it in the film's rushed set-up, which clumsily introduces us to a bunch of characters unseen in any previous entries of the franchise. Organizing the funeral comes with some hazards. Madea knows that Anthony died in a hotel while having kinky sex with his mistress, a close family friend. She also knows that his son A.J. (Courtney Burrell) was in the room next door, carrying out an affair with his younger brother's fiancee. To succeed in her task, these salacious facts must be prevented from rising to the surface.

By this point, you know exactly what you're going to get with a Madea movie. There are sequences of broad humor bumping up against scenes of heavy-handed melodrama. A Madea Family Funeral has some funny moments along the way, especially those related to problems caused by the state in which Anthony died. (Let's put it this way – he had a smile on his face.) Madea herself is also amusing because of her gleefully abrasive personality, particularly when she interacts with constant companions Aunt Bam (Cassi Davis) and Hattie (Patrice Lovely). Funniest of all is the funeral itself. Perry clearly relishes the chance to spoof the manner in which grieving bumps up against impatience at the length of some memorial services.

When all the secrets spill out in the third act, meanwhile, it's not good drama, but it's definitely good soap opera. No, there isn't much depth to it. Who doesn't enjoy watching the you-know-what hitting the proverbial fan, though?

In spite of a few entertaining elements, something about the more recent Madea movies, including this one, has felt a little off. As a writer/director, Perry isn't very concerned with pacing. Long stretches of Madea and her cohorts bickering at each other drag down the story. For instance, there's a scene where Madea's nephew Brian gets pulled over by police for swerving. The characters spend a good three or four minutes trading barbs before the bit actually starts to accomplish what it's intended to. That sort of thing happens again and again; the plot is put on the back-burner for these extended gripe sessions.

Added to that is the issue of Perry playing so many roles. Aside from Madea, he also plays Brian, the weed-loving Joe, and a new character, Heathrow, who talks through a post-throat cancer voice box. Portraying all these figures means that he's often acting against himself rather than other actors, and the “chemistry” is achieved through editing. That creates a hollow feeling in spots, as the interactions are artificial. You just don't get the same spark as when multiple actors perform together.

A Madea Family Funeral is neither the best nor the worst Madea picture. It resides somewhere in the middle. By now, the 11th installment, something new should have been added to spice up the formula. Perry adheres to it staunchly instead. Maybe retiring the character is a good idea – at least until her creator can come up with a fresh spin for the series.

out of four

Tyler Perry's A Madea Family Funeral is rated PG-13 for crude sexual content, language, and drug references throughout.