A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Tyler Perry's Madea's Family Reunion includes several scenes of violence, some dramatic and some comic. A man abuses his fiancée repeatedly, slapping, walloping, and shaking her, threatening to throw her out a window and throwing her to the floor. Madea threatens violence as punishment (she will "tear that ass up," for example), and in some scenes acts on her warning: She slaps a boy in the head and hits her foster child with a belt for skipping school; she advises her niece on revenge for her abuse, and eventually the niece throws hot grits on her abuser and then beats him with a frying pan. At the reunion, the family matriarchs chastise the younger generation for playing craps, arguing, and dancing provocatively (we see examples of all these bad behaviors). Characters refer to sexual activity and use slang ("get some"), including prostitution (one character says her mother was a "whore"). Characters drink beer, wine, and champagne, and refer to "weed," "the chronic," and "a fix."
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What's the story?
TYLER PERRY'S MADEA'S FAMILY REUNION showcases the traditional wisdom of vibrant Madea Simmons (Tyler Perry, who also plays her brother Joe and nephew Brian). Madea's niece Lisa (Rochelle Aytes) is engaged to banker Carlos (Blair Underwood), a perfectionist who beats her. Lisa confesses her plight to her mother Victoria (Lynn Whitfield), who says "Women sometimes have to deal with things to be comfortable." Victoria's bad judgment also shows when it comes to Lisa's half-sister Vanessa (Lisa Arrindell Anderson), who meets Frank (Boris Kodjoe), who seems perfect for her. Still, Vanessa has reservations due to her tense relationship with Victoria, who treats her as a "failure" and focuses on Lisa's upcoming wedding. As Vanessa is currently living with Madea, the matriarch finds plenty of opportunities to offer opinions on her nieces' situations. Madea also has a new addition to her household, foster child Nikki (Keke Palmer). Madea pushes her to do well in school and believe in herself after learning that a previous foster parent told Nikki she could only make a living "on [her] back".
Is it any good?
Directed by Perry, this sequel to Diary of a Mad Black Woman is broadly comic and pushes the PG-13 envelope on content. While the sequel shows more confidence and better production values, Madea's Family Reunion essentially repeats the first plot: Madea advises an abused relative on how to save herself. While Madea provides Nikki with a stable home and emotional encouragement, she serves a different function for the film's audience by performing unsubtle comedy like beating Nikki with a belt, trash talking, and threatening (humorously) to beat or kill those who disobey her. It's funny, and sets Madea apart from those she counsels -- they had better not do as she does.
The Madea franchise is premised on this excessive characterization, and audiences love the character. Still, she can be repetitive, and this film is unevenly paced and predictable. Alternately boisterous, syrupy, and endearing, the film bolsters Madea's belief in family strength-in-unity by community-building, history-remembering, spirit-reviving speeches by Maya Angelou and Cicely Tyson, who show up at the reunion and final scene's wedding.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the strong ties among family members in Madea's Family Reunion, and the power of forgiveness (why is it important that Vanessa forgives her mother, even though Victoria allowed her husband to abuse Vanessa sexually as a child?).
How does Lisa feel trapped in her relationship with Carlos? How is Victoria's determination to have her daughter marry a wealthy man explained, so she remains "sympathetic"?
How does Madea promote traditional values with practical/comic solutions (hitting an abuser with a frying pan)?
- In theaters: February 24, 2006
- On DVD or streaming: June 27, 2006
- Cast: Blair Underwood, Lynn Whitfield, Tyler Perry
- Director: Tyler Perry
- Studio: Lionsgate
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 107 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: for mature thematic material, domestic violence, sex and drug references.