Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Madea Challenge! Part Two: Madea's Family Reunion

Welcome back to part two of my eight part retrospective on Tyler Perry's notorious Madea franchise. Part One can be found HERE. You know, using that word 'retrospective,' it suddenly occurs to me that I already have a series on this blog called Unnecessary Retrospectives which this Madea analysis project should probably go under. Not sure why I didn't think to do that, except maybe that I tend to reserve that banner for horror movie series, and prior to actually watching them, I didn't quite understand that the Madea movies more than qualified as horror. And yes, this retrospective is just as unnecessary as Critters or Puppet Master, more so in fact, because I actually like a lot of those movies. Read on past the jump to hear what I thought immediately after watching Perry's second Madea film, Madea's Family Reunion.




Madea Level Two: Madea's Family Reunion


Okay, I admit it, I was wrong last time, more Madea does not make a Madea movie better. It even sounds so ridiculous saying it out loud now, that I don't understand how I couldn't see just how counter intuitive that notion was. You know what would make these Madea movies better. No Madea in them. Actually, that's unfair, as once again pretty much the only laughs come from either her or her weird twin brother, but my God do they get old fast. Even faster than last time. I've never seen a character wear out their welcome so quickly and yet keep insisting on stinking up a movie. That is to say, if this even is a new movie. I'm wondering if this one might have started as an Evil Dead 2 style remake/sequel, because so much of this story is a retread of the first one.


A woman who happens to be a relative of Madea is in an abusive relationship with a man who she inexplicably keeps going back to because she's weak and a horrible unfeminist example for women everywhere, Madea and Cicily Tyson spout off some homespun wisdom, and once again everything's okay because Jesus. Well, actually, this time the couple is just engaged, not officially married, thus removing the arbitrarily iron clad obstacle facing the protagonist of the first film. And to be fair, they do actually split up the storyline between two sisters this time, one having the abusive relationship, and the other getting the nice guy boyfriend in the end. Oh, and then there's the family reunion of the title, which maybe takes up all of fifteen minutes and adds absolutely nothing to the narrative, not that there was much to add anyway.


In many ways, Madea's Family Reunion is much better than Diary Of A Mad Black Woman, and at the same time so much worse. On the one hand, its a bit easier to sit through, there's not as much heavy handed proselytizing, and at least this time the oversimplified lessons are cliches that make sense, more so than the prior film's go to logic of Christ + ? = Profits. On the other hand, the borderline misogynistic depiction of women as weak and stupid is taken to the Nth degree here, and the melodramatic tone is somehow even more over the top than it was last time. The husband this time around is less douchy and more homicidal, which I suppose technically might explain why his fiance would be too scared to leave, but then, this isn't The Burning Bed here either. She's got a fairly healthy support system of friends and family. And Perry demands such hamfisted performances from his actors that one character's painful confession of childhood molestation just comes off as hilarious, her lip quivering in a shameless and pandering Oscar moment that thankfully never panned out.


The film almost gave me hope half way through when it seemed like the woman had finally left her abusive man, only for them to get back together seemingly off screen, and purely at the insistence of her conniving mother. And on the subject of the mother, she's basically the villain, raiding her daughter's trust fund and pushing her into an abusive marriage to take advantage of the groom's finances, but no matter how evil she gets, I still kinda root for her over any of our heroes. Ordinarily I would judge her harshly for her behavior, but since everyone else in the movie not cross dressing is so weak willed and weepy, she comes off as the only one willing to take charge and do what she has to do to get what she wants. That's even the motto of the film supposedly, that black women don't always do what they want to do, but they always do what they need to do. The bad guy is the only one who actually lives up to this philosophy!


I mentioned the child molestation moment before, and this reveal is a major part of one of the sisters' motivations and is clearly meant to be a very powerful scene in the film. In light of that, you would think that they wouldn't do anything to delegitimize or make light of the subject at all, like say, ten minutes later in the very next set piece. We get this big heartfelt speech, and then at the reunion, the old man Joe played by Perry starts ogling a group of young girls, manipulating one of them to bend over so he can videotape her ass in short shorts. Because this is a family reunion after all, you have to assume that the girl and the old man are at least distantly related, but still close enough to make it icky, but apparently I'm supposed to find it charmingly lecherous.


Oh and that reunion shit can suck long and hard on my dick. In addition to having no point when it comes to the A or B stories, it is eventually revealed that the entire purpose of this extended scene in the film is for Cicily Tyson and Maya freaking Angelou of all people to stand up and give a long winded and I would guess incredibly condescending speech about black youth in America, how black fathers need to take responsibility for their kids, and how black women need to stop all that sexy dancing and use their minds. They were evidently compelled to harangue the entire family party about this because they happened to see some guys gambling and some girls dancing while walking the few feet from the house to the yard.


It is at this family reunion that we realize that our main character has gotten back together with her husband, even though the last time we saw her, she had run away from him and showed no indication of wanting to go back. Its as if the greedy mother just willed them back together, which is another reason why she's the only one I can respect. And yet, despite being the perfect opportunity, being in front of so many people, this is for some reason not the time for the big dramatic moment we all know is coming where the abused woman gets her comeuppance on the man and becomes independent and strong. That moment comes later on just before their wedding, after she's validated his behavior by staying with him and gotten him to pay for a lavish ceremony. If she'd done this on purpose to spite him before giving him third degree hot grits burns and then beating him to within an inch of his life with a frying pan, I'd applaud her, but no, we're left to assume that up until the final moment, after all the abuse, she was still ready to go through with it until then. This movie depicts its female protagonist so badly, that I actually sympathize with the guy who beats her.


Its strange that despite the title of this series and the perception of these movies from people who have not seen them (myself included), Madea's role keeps ending up being an afterthought. I didn't realize how tangential she was to the plots of these movies before I started watching them. This time around she at least gets something to do besides give unheeded advice to stupid people, forced by the courts to become the foster mother to a delinquent child who just happened to have a court date before she did (because, sure, that's how adoption fucking works). This gives her the chance to teach the young girl a valuable lesson about something that I assure you has nothing to do with anything, and lasts just long enough for you to realize how much bullshit it is when the plot thread is in no way resolved. At least Madea's more crucial to the story this time than her brother ever is, who besides being an incestuous pervert adds nothing to the proceedings whatsoever.


So that's all I got for Madea's Family Reunion. If you somehow didn't pick up on it from the above litany of complaints, I don't recommend it for anyone. Ever. See you next time, assuming I haven't killed myself over this shit before then.
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