By Joy Childs
Sentinel Contributing Writer
Whatever you think of a Tyler Perry movie or play, you have to admit he’s got a lock on what makes all Black folks laugh. Whether you fall in the category of those who shamelessly crack up out loud and hearty and say ‘amen’ to a Madea monologue in one of his plays-or you’re one of those who smothers their laughs at a TP movie so as not to be caught laughing at something that you know really is derogatory, you’d probably be lying if you said you didn’t find some one thing funny in one of his productions.
Take this one, for example: the bumper sticker that reads “1-800-CHOKE-A-HO” stuck prominently on the big old car that Madea drives through a restaurant (Notice: I didn’t say “drive-through restaurant”). Of course, we can all relate to the frustration of being ignored at a McDonald’s while the cashier takes a personal call. But for some, this will be one of those tee-hee-hee, ‘No, he dih’n’ moments, while others will condemn Madea’s actions in this scene as not only over the top but downright reprehensible.
But anyone who’s seen a TP production knows that these and other sight gags, slapstick and put-downs are standard fare. I don’t want to spoil anything about Perry’s latest Madea adventures-but then, I really can’t spoil “Madea’s Big Happy Family,” now in theaters, because fans of his plays and movies can pretty much guess the plot: There’s a crisis, this time in Madea’s extended family, and by movie’s end, Madea has preached, threatened and Biblically scriptured (and even quoted BFF Oprah Winfrey) on the way to a happy, life-changing, uplifting resolution.
Along the way, we meet the members of this charming family, created, it would seem, to provide “comic relief”: back-talking kids; a kept woman who keeps egging on her man to get “back in the game” to do “just one more drop” so he can better take care of her; a seriously henpecked husband who finally gets up the nerve to put his woman in her place; a mismatched, clothes-wearing mispronouncer; and a “baby mama” with annoyingly nasally voice.
Madea herself remains the oversized, God-fearing “Christian” matriarch, one prone to interlacing her preachin’ with threats and slaps. Then, there are elements popular in the Black community- like baby-daddy issues addressed on “The Maury Povich Show; jokes about weaves and being too ghetto-oh, it’s all so very funny.
Of course, we’ve got the saintly mother; the absent father; the gossipy, lustful senior citizen sistahfriend; the dirty old man AKA Madea’s brother; and, added in for good measure, are the sibling-rivalry, secrets-and-lies characters.
Among the few positives, in his first major acting role, Isaiah Mustafa does a credible job as the archetypal good and dutiful brother (one just wishes he’d been able to wear Old Spice commercial attire!) He’s one-half of an upwardly mobile Black professional couple.
And as usual, the music is on the one: A couple of righteous gospel songs are sure to stir your soul. There are also some great statistical lessons about health issues prevalent in the Black community-cancer, diabetes, obesity-which are dispensed by a doctor character likely to make lady viewers wish he were advising them for real!
To those who say if Tyler Perry isn’t your cup of tea, just don’t go to his productions, that I cannot do. Being a movie fanatic and one who unequivocally supports all of the few Black movies out there, I offer this humble, win-win solution: Just once I wish Perry would use his extraordinary writing abilities and undeniable understanding of what makes Black people laugh to create a real drama or a dramedy or a serio-comic plot-and I don’t mean “Why Did I Get Married” or “Too.”
How about something like ABC’s “Black Modern Family.” If he did that, maybe we all could say in unison “Hallelujer”!