Considering that, as a writer, Tyler Perry can’t stay away from gross sentimentality and tearful redemption, it’s shocking that it took him this long to make a Christmas movie. Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas is exactly what you expect -- assuming you were expecting much of anything. The overstuffed story involves Madea (Perry) going to a...read more
Considering that, as a writer, Tyler Perry can’t stay away from gross sentimentality and tearful redemption, it’s shocking that it took him this long to make a Christmas movie. Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas is exactly what you expect -- assuming you were expecting much of anything.
The overstuffed story involves Madea (Perry) going to a small Southern town with her sister Eileen (Anna Maria Horsford) in order to spend Christmas with Eileen’s daughter Lacey (Tika Sumpter), an elementary-school teacher who didn’t come home for the holidays because she’s tired of her mother’s controlling ways. In addition, Lacey is hiding her marriage to Connor (Eric Lively) because she knows her mother would disapprove of her marrying a white man. The deception grows harder to maintain when Connor’s parents (Kathy Najimy and Larry the Cable Guy) show up, although the good-hearted pair do their best to play along.
As if this old-fashioned farce weren’t enough to keep the movie going, it seems that the town itself has been under serious financial strain since a dam was built, causing the water that used to help the local farmers to dry up. The residents can no longer afford to stage their annual Christmas pageant, so Lacey tries to help out by getting an old high-school friend to find a sponsor. When the identity of the corporate interest paying for the event is revealed, there is a great deal of consternation among the community and an angry local named Tanner (Chad Michael Murray) demands that the mayor fire her from her position as a teacher. Tanner is a bully who constantly reminds Connor that he used to beat him up in school, and he doesn’t show any sensitivity or love toward his son Bailey (Noah Urrea), a straight-A student of Lacey’s who also possesses an angelic singing voice. He’s such an unrepentant, hate-filled jerk that you know from his first appearance the movie will end when this redneck Scrooge finally sees the error of his ways.
If there’s a through line to be found in Tyler Perry’s films, it’s naivete. His emotions and techniques are crude, and his humor is made up of bad puns, off-color sex jokes, and oversized women threatening to whup people. This makes Larry the Cable Guy just about the perfect comic foil for Madea, and they certainly have more chemistry here than Perry and Eugene Levy had in Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Witness Protection. Still, nothing funny happens between them, unless you think Larry’s character telling someone they need Prilosec is a particularly pointed piece of postmodern comedy and not just an insulting example of product placement.
Tyler Perry has built himself into a brand -- as if his constantly putting a possessive in front of all of his films doesn’t make that clear enough. However, even a loyal fan base can grow weary when they sense that the person they’ve come to know so well is taking them for granted. Maybe they’ll recognize Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas for what it is: a lump of coal in their cinematic holiday stocking.