By Bob Garver
Q: Why should you never perform for ghosts?
A: Because they're always saying "Boo!"
This movie gets a bunch of boos out of me, and it's not because I'm trying to scare it. Tyler Perry is back and he's brought his alter ego Madea with him. Get ready for 103 minutes of crass old lady jokes with delusions of wisdom.
The story is that Brian (Perry looking like himself) needs someone to look after his 17-year-old daughter Tiffany (Diamond White) on Halloween night. She expressed interest in going to a party at a nearby fraternity, and of course Brian doesn't want her to go. But he also doesn't want to rock the boat in their relationship, where he's trying to be more of a friend than a parent. Apparently he's being guided by the one book in the world that thinks this approach to parenting is a good idea. So he asks his Aunt Madea to babysit, and she brings along her brother Joe (Perry again, in horrible makeup but at least not drag), his wife Hattie (Patrice Lovely, in one of the worst portrayals of an old lady I've ever seen), and cousin Bam (Cassi Davis).
Shenanigans follow. Tiffany sneaks out of the house and Madea and her crew have to go to the frat party to track her down. But the silly old people... they don't know how to interact with the young people. And the flippant young people... they don't respect their elders and need to be put in their place. And this needs to be done by Madea exposing herself for some reason. Elsewhere in the movie there are clown attacks, zombie attacks, murder scares, arrest scares, candy stealing, prescription pot jokes aplenty, and all manner of PG-13 bathroom humor.
Aside from the jokes being plain unfunny and the characters' actions being stupid, the movie suffers from pacing issues. Perry, a playwright, clearly wrote some of these scenes with the stage in mind. Scenes in Brian's living room stretch on and on, because onstage you can have long conversations in a single setting because it's necessary to keep set changes to a minimum. But onscreen it just makes the movie drag, especially since nothing interesting is being said. Other examples of the film's staginess hurting it are the horrendous "they need to see it in the back" makeup and of course the broad acting, which in person might be praised for being "energetic," but here is just obnoxious.
If you've ever seen one of these movies, you know that they're never entirely about Madea and her antics. I'd say "thankfully," but the serious parts of this movie don't fare any better. The supposed "heart" of this movie is Brian's relationship with Tiffany and how he should handle matters of discipline. The idea is that Brian is too soft and Madea and Joe are advising him to be too harsh, and the best solution is somewhere in between. Of course it lies somewhere in between, both sides are ridiculous extremes. Brian's approach clearly isn't working and Madea and Joe cite examples that Hammurabi would consider abusive. So is it any wonder that none of this material comes off as insightful?
I'm giving "Boo! A Madea Halloween" one star out of five. Please know that I don't despise this movie the way I despise some of the other movies I've given one star to this year. It's too lightweight to get me that angry. And at least I can take a little bit of solace in knowing that Perry had to be uncomfortable under all the makeup and prosthetics. I just can't think of a single thing this movie does right.
One Star out of Five.
"Boo! A Madea Halloween" is rated PG-13 for drug use and references, suggestive content, some horror images and thematic material. Its running time is 103 minutes.
Contact Bob Garver at firstname.lastname@example.org.