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December 21, 2014

A Madea Christmas

by Franz Patrick


Madea Christmas, A (2013)
★ / ★★★★

Lacey (Tika Sumpter), a new schoolteacher in Alabama, tells her mother, Eileen (Anna Maria Horsford), that she will not be able to make it home for Christmas because the school has to make up missed days and she is overseeing the Christmas Jubilee, an event that everybody in town looks forward to every year. Eileen has an idea: Along with Madea (Tyler Perry) and Lacey’s ex-boyfriend (JR Lemon), they will surprise Lacey with a visit. But there is a problem: Although Lacey has told the truth about her busy schedule, she has not yet told her mother that the man she is living with, Conner (Eric Lively), is her husband. Because Conner is white, Lacey suspects that Eileen will likely overreact.

I guess I am one of the few reviewers who actually enjoy the Madea movies, despite the logical flaws ingrained in them, and try to go into each one with an open mind. But “A Madea Christmas,” written and directed by Tyler Perry, is easily one of the weaker pictures in the series because although some humor remains, the plot and subplots are so all over the map, that the material, as a whole, never gathers enough momentum to get us to care. It is a would-be Christmas movie with no heart—at least a convincing one—and that is an elementary mistake considering the sub-genre it happens to fall under.

The unifying theme is acceptance. A mother must accept the fact that her daughter is a full-grown woman, smart, and thus more than capable of making her own decisions. A daughter must accept that although her mother may react negatively toward having married a white man, the fact must be faced with grace and not with continual avoidance. With respect to its handful of subplots, a community must accept that they are in need of help financially, that the Christmas Jubilee that they so value may not take place as a result. They are so desperate, someone actually suggests taking funds out of the school’s budget.

These are serious issues worthy of tackling in a comedy. Although these elements are presented in a Madea movie, it is not too much to expect a little bit of intelligence and real insight once in a while. I enjoy Perry’s sassy character because she always has great one-liners, especially when she gets upset toward somebody acting foolish or spoiled, but Madea does very little to contribute to the story and where it may be heading. Madea is the star, but it is strange that she is prevented from moving beyond the fast-, trash-talking friend that someone either loves or fears.

For a story that takes place around Christmas, one that wishes to instill good values, the final ten to fifteen minutes is downright immoral in its own way. A big problem involving the farming community is solved with subterfuge and everything ends up all right. There is no repercussion, only Christmas music. It comes off wrong and distasteful. Just when I thought there would be repercussions, the movie just ends.

“A Madea Christmas” is very slow-moving, poorly written, deadly dull at times that I could not help but wonder where the Madea I am entertained by had gone. It is as if the real Madea went on vacation and what we have here instead is a mere imitation, the filmmakers hoping that we would be too ignorant to recognize difference.

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