Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Tyler Perry's A Madea Christmas is a holiday comedy featuring Perry's signature character, Madea. Based on Perry's Christmas play, the movie features issues like religious versus secular celebrations of Christmas, interracial relationships in the deep South, and honesty between parents and children. Language includes "damn," "hell," "whore" and other insults, and there are several references to and jokes about sex (mentions of a whorehouse, Viagra, foreskin, role playing, etc.) and race (KKK meeting, disparaging remarks about rednecks, and the horrified way a black mother acts when her daughter reveals she's married to "the help"). As for the holiday cheer, the movie advocates for religious representations of the season and for accepting that love shouldn't see color or class.
What's the story?
Madea's (Tyler Perry) in need of a job, so her niece Eileen (Anna Maria Horsford) gets her a retail gig at a Macy's-like department store. When Eileen finds out that her daughter Lacey isn't going to visit her for Christmas, Eileen enlists Madea to accompany her to the "country" (rural Alabama) to surprise Lacey (Tika Sumpter) for the holiday. Lacey, an elementary school teacher, tries to save her adopted hometown's annual Christmas jubilee by asking her well-connected ex-boyfriend Oliver (JR Lemon) to find a sponsor. But her bigger problem is that she's married to Conner (Eric Lively), a white agricultural engineer she pretends is her "farm hand" when her mother and Aunt Madea show up unexpectedly. When Conner's parents (Larry the Cable Guy and Kathy Najimy) -- who do know about the elopement -- arrive from Louisiana, they also agree to play along for Lacey's sake. As Eileen's treatment of Conner and his folks goes from aloof to rude, Madea forces Lacey to finally stand up to her mother on Christmas.
Is it any good?
Let's start with the good: Najimy and Larry the Cable Guy do elicit laughs as the surprisingly open-minded "country folks" who love the beautiful Lacey and can see why she's a good match for their handsome college-educated son. They might look like bigots, Perry is saying, but they're the progressive ones when it comes to the interracial relationship. Despite changing things up by having the black parent be the prejudiced one (please see Something New for a much better example of this twist on the Guess Who's Coming to Dinner trope), the issue is handled with heavy handed stereotypes and cliches. And it also makes Lacey infinitely less likable as a character, because what kind of person forces their loving, ridiculously handsome husband and his loving parents to pretend they're a paid employee and his poor parents?
Seeing Larry the Cable Guy go joke-for-joke with Tyler Perry is novel for a couple of moment, but really he and Najimy are the only ones who are consistently funny, since poor Madea has to spend most of the movie compensating for or chastising her killjoy of a niece Eileen, who is not only racist but also classist and insensitive and downright cruel. The only moment that redeems her is late in the film. Overall, this holiday installment (which includes, no lie, digital Christmas present wipes in between scenes) is one of Perry's worst executed Madea movies. There's no real joy and laughter for most of it, and at the end everything and everyone is magically happy.
Explore, discuss, enjoy
Families can talk about the pervasiveness of Christmas-themed movies and TV specials. Why do you think there are so many? How does this Madea comedy fit into the genre?
What do you think about the twist on the interracial relationship? Are references to interracial romance still rare?
Why do you think Madea movies are so popular? What are this film's messages about love and Christmas?