'A Madea Family Funeral': Film Review

Promises, promises.

Tyler Perry makes his announced final screen appearance as the foul-mouth matriarch in this 11th entry in the hugely popular comedy franchise.

When Tyler Perry announced that A Madea Family Funeral would mark his last appearance as the profane title character, it seemed reasonable to assume (to hope!) that Madea would finally be meeting her demise. Alas, such is not the case with this typically slapdash effort, which doesn't even have the courage of its convictions. Perry has made much hay of his swan song as the character (there's even a farewell stage tour), but it isn't hard to guess that Madea will eventually be making a much-ballyhooed cinematic return when the time is right.

Considering how well the character has served him, Perry certainly doesn't return the favor in this graceless installment combining raucous comedy and turgid melodrama to undigestible effect. There's no denying that this incredibly successful show business entrepreneur works hard in his combined efforts. But this film, like almost all of his others, has a tossed-off quality, giving the impression it was written and shot over a long weekend.

The chief novelty is the introduction of yet another character played by Perry, who clearly spends more time in the makeup chair than actually directing. The new addition is Heathrow, a legless, leering, cancer-survivor misanthrope who speaks through a throat microphone whose deep vibrations causes Madea's nipples to harden. Sadly, the new character, like Madea, is also not the subject of the funeral around which the film revolves.

That honor goes to Anthony (Derek Morgan), who bites the dust while in flagrante delicto with Renee (Quin Walter), his wife Vianne's (Jen Harper) best friend, during an extended family gathering at a hotel. That Anthony died during a state of "happiness," as an unctuous funeral director puts it, leads to a running gag about the lower lid of his coffin refusing to stay shut. Those are the jokes, folks.

Anthony wasn't the only family member getting it on. So is A.J. (Courtney Burrell) and Gia (Aeriel Miranda), the latter of whom is engaged to A.J.'s brother Jessie (Rome Flynn). Cue the inevitable melodramatics as the various adulteries are exposed, with Madea and her posse, consisting of Hattie (Patrice Lovely), Aunt Bam (Cassi Davis) and brother Joe (Perry), serving as a foul-mouthed Greek chorus commenting on the action. Suffice it to say that some of the film's biggest laughs are earned by the sight and sound of Madea repeatedly slapping her elderly cohorts in the face when they get too close to spilling the beans.

One of the film's most inept sequences involves Brian (Perry's straight-man character in the series) driving his elderly relatives and being stopped by a twitchy, white cop who threatens the group in near-psychotic fashion. It's clearly meant to be some sort of commentary on African-Americans' fear of being stopped for the crime of driving while black, but the scene is so poorly written and staged, with such a weak comic resolution, that it comes across as simply bizarre.

Even worse is the centerpiece attempting to send up black funeral traditions. It could have been funny, with Madea, assigned the task of coordinating the proceedings, ruthlessly, and often violently, limiting the speakers to two minutes apiece as the ceremony goes on and on. But it, too, fails to coalesce into anything amusing, feeling nearly as long as the marathon event being depicted.

Perry doesn't even try to successfully integrate the story's comedic and dramatic elements, merely toggling back and forth between them as if in need of mood stabilizers. The musical score composed by Philip White desperately tries to keep up, providing saccharine jazzy melodies for the serious moments and practically resorting to rim shots for the comic ones.

A Madea Family Funeral ends with a cameo by a former heavyweight champion, who, despite the brevity of his appearance, is billed fourth in the end credits. He was much funnier in the Hangover movies.

Production companies: Tyler Perry Studios, Lionsgate
Distributor: Lionsgate
Cast: Tyler Perry, Cassi Davis, Patrice Lovely, Mike Tyson, Ciera Payton, KJ Smith, Quin Walters, Aeriel Miranda
Director-screenwriter: Tyler Perry
Producers: Tyler Perry, Ozzie Areu, Will Areu, Mark E. Swinton
Director of photography: Richard Vialet
Production designer: Paul Wonsek
Editor: Larry Sexton
Composer: Philip White
Costume designer: Crystal Hayslett
Casting: Kim Taylor-Coleman

Rated PG-13, 102 minutes