Tyler Perry’s A Madea Homecoming, out now on Netflix, marks the official un-retirement of the Perry’s quasi-alter-ego fat-suit/crossdress Madea character, officially marking the 12th movie in her own “cinematic universe.” If you’re wondering why she’s being de-mothballed, here’s your answer, fishbulb: Multimedia mogul and Madea creator Perry said he took the loud, take-no-guff matriarch out of mothballs so she could weigh in on the chaotic state of current American politics, and offer fans a temporary escape from divisive rhetoric and the increasingly wearying COVID pandemic. BUT, as they say, THAT’S NOT ALL – the movie also is a cultural crossover event with hit U.K. TV sitcom Mrs. Brown’s Boys, in which star Brendan O’Carroll’s quasi-alter-ego fat-suit/crossdress character Agnes Brown flies over from Ireland to hang with Madea as she celebrates her great-grandson’s college graduation. Are you rolling your eyes at all this, or firing up the ol’ Roku lickety-split to witness another Perry-directed trainwreck? Your mileage may vary, as ever.
‘TYLER PERRY’S A MADEA HOMECOMING’: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
The Gist: Madea (Perry) sits indoors with her brother Uncle Joe (Perry) as Leroy Brown (David Mann) sets himself on fire out in the yard while trying to light the barbecue. They laugh as he runs around engulfed in flames; Madea tosses a teacup of water at him; somehow he emerges mostly unscathed save for the seat of his pants, which is burned up, leaving his ass hanging out so others can comment on how hairy it is. Madea’s prepping for the arrival of family, gathering for her great-grandson Tim’s (Brandon Black) college graduation – he’s valedictorian and everything. Tim’s a little keyed-up on his drive into town, because he’s also planning to come out as gay to his family. He’s accompanied by Davi (Isha Blakker), his best friend and roommate, and if you initially think they’re lovers, well, don’t, because they’re not, although that’s not made clear until the third act, since this movie is sloppier than 300 bunless Manwiches.
The relatives start pouring in: Madea’s cousin Bam (Cassi Davis-Patton), daughter Cora (Tamela Mann), and granddaughters Laura (Gabrielle Dennis) and Ellie (Candace Maxwell). Laura is Tim’s mother, recently divorced from his father, Richard (Amani Atkinson), who shows up despite the fact that everyone but Tim hates his guts. Laura arrives with her divorce lawyer Sylvia (Genva Maccarone), who is related to everyone too, because Uncle Joe goes on about how hot and sexy she is, and replies to the reminder that she’s his grand-niece by saying this is the South, so even cousins are fair game. Uncle Joe is quite the gem, going on about the content of his testicles and dressing in Black Panther garb, saying “defund the police” and supporting destructive protesters, until Madea makes him think his car is being stolen and he shouts “call the police,” thus allowing her a platform to say that the way bad cops treat Black people is terrible, but they also need the cops to protect them, and that’s that. Madea: ever the voice of reason.
Things get REALLY interesting when Ravi’s grandaunt Agnes Brown (O’Carroll) arrives with her daughter/Ravi’s aunt Cathy (Jennifer Gibney). Surprise! They’re crashing the party to celebrate Ravi’s graduation, and it’s crucial to note that Mrs. Brown isn’t afraid to fart in front of strangers. There’s an incident in which Mrs. Brown’s heavy Irish brogue makes the word “knickers” sound like something far, far worse, and everyone loses their shit. But after quite the rabble, they clear it up – it involves Mrs. Brown lifting her skirt – and head to the nearest location of a prominent nationwide seafood restaurant chain for dinner, and the film deploys its finest cinematography in the depiction of said prominent nationwide seafood restaurant chain’s entrees. Don’t the prominent nationwide seafood restaurant chain’s entrees look scrumptious? I bet the prominent nationwide seafood restaurant chain’s entrees are incredibly affordable, too! And then Mrs. Brown accidentally chows too many of Madea’s edibles and gets sssstoooooonnedddd as f—————–.
The hijinks continue, of course, as do some dramatic revelations that keep the plot chugging along. Will said hijinks and revelations tear the family apart or bring everyone closer together? Will Madea ever realize that Mrs. Brown is saying “Ireland” and not “Iran”? How many times will Madea threaten someone with firearms? How often will Madea give us whiplash by being an insane person who also dishes out goopy wads of questionable/reasonable advice while high as hell? No spoilers, but I will say, this Madea movie sure is full of things.
What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: Man, I dunno, but there’s been enough revivals, re-revivals and re-re-revivals in the streaming age that you wonder if it’s time for a Nutty Professor/Big Momma’s House/Madea ultra-mega-crossover event. Or at least Norbit 2: Twice Norbitten.
Performance Worth Watching: There’s always a cast member or two in Perry’s films who stand out as capable of greater things, and in this case, it’s Gabrielle Dennis. She has an easy, natural screen presence signifying her ability to make comedy and/or drama look effortless because she’s rendering Perry’s turgid dialogue and plotting halfway plausible.
Memorable Dialogue: There’s nothing in the current cinema that more profoundly illustrates the clash between laws and morality than the following line: “There’s the legal way, and there’s the Madea way.”
Sex and Skin: None. Too difficult to work with/through/around the fat suits.
Our Take: A Madea Homecoming delivers precisely what we expect: Treacly sentiment; ludicrous sub-soap-opera dramatic betrayals; flimsy, half-assed social commentary; and lowbrow comedy including, but not limited to, weed jokes, slapstick, Madea’s ludicrous fabricated anecdotes, horny senior citizens, malapropisms, derps wearing ridiculous clothing, references to visually unappealing genitalia, etc. The Madea/Mrs. Brown culture-clash fodder is monumental in its collision of two intellectual-in-formal-description-only properties that parallel each other in their built-from-the-ground-up popular success and critical revulsion; putting the two characters together may demonstrate how similar at heart geographically disparate cultures can be, because everyone finds men dressed as plus-sized women to be inherently hilarious, especially when said plus-sized woman characters are flatulent and/or tokin’ the reefer.
Well, not quite everyone. Surely some of us are bone-tired of the same old jokes (just don’t call me Shirley), so cue up the ol’ dichotomy about how familiarity either offers comfort or breeds contempt. Perry’s inclination to offer Madea’s hot take on the State of Things results in centrist, can’t-we-all-just-get-along assertions that come off as simplistic but well-intentioned, and if you read into it further, Perry seems to be quietly pleading for everyone to just chill out a little bit and communicate better. And oh, by the way, here are silly people doing silly things and, at the end of the day, despite our differences, let’s accept each other for who we are, whether we’re young gay Black men or crude caricatures of old white Irish ladies. Such are the implications of Madea’s speeches and actions, and there are worse statements to make in 2022. As for her insistence upon never, ever taking an ounce of shit from anybody? That muddies the message, but nobody would ever accuse Madea of not being complicated – nor does one watch a Tyler Perry film expecting something coherent.
Our Call: Critical opinions are moot – inevitably, longtime fans will gleefully fire up A Madea Homecoming, and Netflix will watch its numbers soar. (Whether anyone will feel inspired to just as gleefully masticate a succulently boiled crustacean dinner from that prominent nationwide seafood restaurant chain remains to be seen.) I know this’ll sound wishy-washy in spite of the usual shoddy production values, slapdash plots and exhausting humor that have always comprised Perry’s signature style, but STREAM IT if you’re on board the Madea circus train, and if you’re not, there are hundreds of thousands of other things you could watch instead.
John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Read more of his work at johnserbaatlarge.com.