Atlanta-based playwright-turned-entertainment mogul Tyler Perry's fourth feature may be his most awkwardly plotted, cliché-ridden effort to date. But it caters – some might say panders – to his target audience with ruthless efficiency. Single mother Brenda Brown (Angela Bassett) was dealt a bad hand -- her mother was a strung-out hooker, her father...read more
Atlanta-based playwright-turned-entertainment mogul Tyler Perry's fourth feature may be his most awkwardly plotted, cliché-ridden effort to date. But it caters – some might say panders – to his target audience with ruthless efficiency.
Single mother Brenda Brown (Angela Bassett) was dealt a bad hand -- her mother was a strung-out hooker, her father vanished before she was born -- and made a series of bad choices: Becoming pregnant as a teenager, dropping out of high school and subsequently having two more children by different deadbeat fathers. But Brenda is a fiercely devoted mother to 17-year-old Mike (Lance Gross, of Perry's TV series House of Payne), a promising basketball player, and little girls Tosha (Chloe Bailey) and Lena (Mariana Tolbert), whom she's raising in a rundown Chicago housing project. Brenda fully intends to ignore the out-of-the-blue letter inviting her to the Georgia funeral of the father she never knew until she finds herself abruptly unemployed. She could use a change of scenery, and as her pragmatic best friend (Sofía Vergara) says, the old man might have left her something. And so Brenda and her brood are plunged into the bosom of a boisterous extended family that includes L.B. (Frankie Faison) and his gracious wife, Sarah (Margaret Avery); L.B.'s buffoonish younger brother Leroy (David Mann), who was once married to the larger-than-life Madea (Perry); their sister, Vera (Jenifer Lewis), whose waspish tongue gets sharper with every drink; and Leroy's adult daughter, Cora (Tamela Mann, David's real-life wife). With the exception of L.B., none of the Georgia Browns knew Brenda existed, let alone that their beloved daddy was once a Chicago pimp -- Brenda's mother was one of his girls. And imagine Brenda's surprise when she runs into handsome basketball coach Harry Belton (former NBA player Rick Fox): She showed him the door back in Chicago when he came around peddling hoop dreams, but he turns out to be a close friend of the Brown family, a born father figure and a perfect gentleman. In fact, he seems too good to be true – should Brenda trust her battered heart or the spiteful small-town gossip that panders to her worst suspicions?
Perry may not care much about story structure, but he knows what his fans want: Broad laughs, pointed moral lessons for the misguided, comeuppance for the usual scoundrels (absentee fathers/drug dealers/bad husbands), redemptive romance and pistol-packing, dope-smoking, big momma Madea. And so that's what he delivers, even if Madea's heart and backside are considerably bigger than her cameo appearance.
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