By proxy, I get to see a lot of Tyler Perry movies. Whether it would be a review for this site or perhaps my wife wanting to see something with Madea, I have seen just about every movie the director has put out there. Most of the time I found myself laughing quite a bit but sometimes his movies find themselves a bit preachier than I can tolerate. But what would I think of a Tyler Perry play? Well, I found out the answer when I watched: A Madea Christmas.
We open to a rendition of Oh Come All Ye Faithful. I guess I should expect lots of singing in this one. The stage re-opens as we see Lilian Mansell (played by Chandra Currelley Young) lecturing Margaret (played by Cheryl Pepsii Riley) her maid. It seems that Margaret wants to go home to see her family on Christmas but Lilian needs her to help around the house. It appears that Lilian’s daughter, China is bringing home a man this holiday season.
A man named Bobby who as it turns out comes from a very wealthy family. We are also introduced to Hattie (played by Patrice Lovely), the family chef who apparently drinks a lot and can not be fired (due to ancient will provisions). It is about that time that Lilian’s husband, John (played by Maurice Lauchner) and their son, Japan (played by Zuri Craig) come home.
China (played by Tamar Davis) walks through the door with her new beau, Bobby (played by Shannon Williams) in tow. Almost immediately, Lilian pressures China about whether or not she and Bobby are going to get married. Shortly after, John nearly asks the same thing of Bobby and his intentions towards his daughter. However, Bobby is ready to pop the question asks the father for his blessing. Eager, the father agrees.
However, China while interested in Bobby is still very frustrated with the way her mother is treating the situation. She wants to be happy and not feel forced to marry somebody simply because of the amount of money they have. China gripes about it to Japan who mostly falls on deaf ears. (there is a joke there somewhere) Instead of trying to be sympathetic, Japan starts to sing a song that asks about family. We take you now to this very important advertisement.
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Meanwhile, we see that Lilian is about to give a very special (and expensive) gift to Bobby to try and lure him to the family. The woman even asks her own daughter if she has “put out” yet. That is the way you keep a man she says. Cheeseburger pie and school girl outfits worked on me, but what do I know. Anyway, China eventually catches on to the fact that Margaret will not be spending Christmas with her own children since Lilian is forcing her to work.
China gets the idea of inviting Margaret’s relatives and children to stay at the house. Lilian puts her foot down but the father says it is okay. However, Margaret really does not want them to invite them, so the situation is cooled temporarily. But later, when nobody is looking, China decides to call them anyway to proceed with the invite.
As the situation breaks down, it is Christmas time. Everybody trades gifts around the tree but it appears that Bobby has a very special gift to China. He starts to get down on one knee and asks that infamous question. “Do you have any Grey Poupon?”…no you dimwit. Marriage. He’s going to ask her to marry him.
But this is also the time when who should show up at the door? Why that would be Madea (played by Tyler Perry) and Aunt Bam (played by Cassi Davis). They are followed by Margaret’s three children: Lucy (played by Alexis Jones), George (played by Jeffery Lewis) and Eric (played by Tony Grant). It just so happens that Eric and China used to be a couple. This could get very interesting.
Before we proceed to the commentary, let us take a break for one more advertisement.
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Christmas plays are usually cliché to begin with. Often, it feels like one long Christmas carol from beginning to end. The kind you might find on a card to relatives you have not talked to since last Christmas. You know the ones. This play is no different. There is singing a plenty here and I swear for the last 35 minutes of the play, it feels like one giant song in fact. It does not help when many of the songs are either the same tired Christmas tunes or songs involving Humpty Dumpty.
However, there is some silver lining here. Patrice Lovely puts on a fantastic performance as Hattie, the crazy chef who is allowed the freedom to do anything at anytime because she can’t get fired (it’s in the will). She is possibly even funnier than Madea who puts on her usual huge performance. Madea also brings a lot to the table in her remarkable style. The usual problem here is that the rest of the cast seems to merely react to Madea or Hattie rather than establish their own characters.
Furthermore, the film is every definition of preachy. I do not mind a little bit of church in my movies. However, when I watch a film (or play) that turns into a glorified sermon about what Christmas and relationships should be like, I become disinterested. Not that I do not praise God and thank him for the wonder of living on this planet. However I do not care to be beat over the head with it and be told how to act. It is something that we see all too often. Praise the lord, do not lead us by the nose and try to force us into your way of thinking.
The video is in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation. The play atmosphere focuses on a semi-elaborate stage that is divided into 5 or 6 sections. The camera focuses on that section and goes from there. Similar to a television show. The video quality is fairly average, a little more so considering the amount of work that took to design the set. Color is fairly good throughout and flesh tones seem to be accurate. There just is not a lot of depth but it would not be expected in this environment.
For the audio portion, we get a 5.1 English Dolby Digital track (Spanish Dolby Digital also included). Audio fares a little bit better than the video as the stage responds well to the action. Dialog is strong and stays in the first three channels. Words are rarely dropped here and even Madea’s rrrrs are fully audible. Surrounds are uncommon but this is intended as a play, not a feature film. Subtitles are included for English SDH and Spanish.
- Automatic Trailers: Madea’s Big Happy Family, Laugh to Keep from Crying, Meet the Browns, What’s Done in the Dark and Prayfit (seriously?!!, a fitness show where you pray a lot?, this is getting beyond ridiculous).
- The Making of a Madea Christmas 6:30: As one might guess, this set of extras starts with, you guessed it…a prayer. Then we are treated to some rehearsal footage as well as go behind the scenes of this play. They also spend some time with music and makeup. It is hard to believe that this all came together in a mere two weeks.
- I’er Apolerrgize – Bloopers! 8:46: A very funny Blooper set. It is interesting how many times Tyler Perry (in his Madea garb) would stop the show and break the 4th wall and either fix a line on his own or tell somebody else to do theirs correctly. It is done in a very funny way especially when he tells somebody’s baby in the audience to be quiet or talks about saying no to dvd bootlegging.
- Spreading the Love with Tyler Perry’s Cast 28:58: The most meaty featurette, this spends a lot of time going over the entire cast as told to you by the castmates. They even discuss the “Holy Shake” or Lilian’s dance she has during her big number. I thought it was an epileptic seizure and somebody should be calling 911, but I digress. They also talk about what Christmas means to them and share some stories. If you did not expect it, we get a lovefest of Madea/Tyler Perry too. This all ends with some singing to finish it out.
In between my silly advertisements and random comments, I really do want to bring out one positive thing about this movie. Patrice Lovely does a great job as Hattie. It is unfortunate that the Madea character (at least by this movie) may be tired and past the point where it is the main focus of the movie. It does not help that the rest of the cast merely seems to follow her lead and not develop their own unique character. Madea’s Christmas is one tired stereotype after another in a very preachy and song filled format.
The disc itself is a decent bag if you are a tired and true Madea fan with adequate video, audio and some extras to plow through. However, only the hardcore Madea fans should apply. The rest of the audience is going to find it difficult to get through the 2 1/2 hours that this play serves up. It grows tired after an hour and comes to an extremely predictable conclusion. No recommendation here unless you have plenty of duct tape and earplugs handy.