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Madea's family reunion

This flamboyant saga of family dysfunction is the follow-up to DIARY OF A MAD BLACK WOMAN (2005), the first feature film by "urban theater" phenomenon Tyler Perry, and features guest appearances by Cicely Tyson and Maya Angelou. Based on one of Perry's many plays featuring gun-toting, pot-puffing big momma Mabel "Madea" Simmons (played by Perry), it revolves around unhappy half sisters Vanessa (Lisa Arrindell Anderson) and Lisa (Rochelle Aytes), and their viciously materialistic and status-conscious mother, Victoria (Lynn Whitfield), better known as the Wicked Witch of Atlanta. Victoria's transgressions are many: She married for money, has spent years looting younger daughter Lisa's trust fund and is now pressuring her to marry wealthy investment banker Carlos (Blair Underwood), who beats and humiliates her behind closed doors. Victoria's been a world-class bad mother to her older daughter, allowing her wealthy second husband to sexually abuse Vanessa repeatedly. And to top it all off, she's an uppity bitch who'd like to forget where she came from. Vanessa, the single mother of two small children, has moved in with Madea, whose door is always open to family members in trouble. In fact, it's open to strangers as well: She's recently taken in troubled foster child Nikki (Keke Palmer). Lisa follows her mother's self-serving advice, silently enduring Carlos' abuse and acquiescing to Victoria's plans for a lavish wedding. But Vanessa begins a tentative romance with handsome bus driver Frankie (Boris Kodjoe), a good Christian man who paints, likes poetry, loves children and is, hard though it may be for the wounded Vanessa to believe, not too good to be true. Perry's wildly successful plays, which are aimed squarely — but not exclusively — at the African-American community, employs a savvy combination of vulgar slapstick and full-bore melodrama to address issues like domestic violence, drug and alcohol addiction, child abuse and black-on-black prejudice. Simultaneously, he celebrates the healing power of finding faith and opening a can of whupass on folks who just won't act right. Like DIARY OF A MAD BLACK WOMAN, MADEA'S FAMILY REUNION is too long and its tone is disconcertingly uneven, but Perry never betrays or condescends to his characters: He agonizes with their unhappiness and rejoices in their victories. In addition to playing Madea, jack- (and jill-) of-all-trades Perry also plays Madea's flatulent brother Joe and Joe's buppie son Brian, whose troubled relationship with his drug-addicted wife forms a significant subplot in DIARY but who makes little more than a cameo appearance here.