A Madea Family Funeral filled me with a sense of grief. Not because it takes 100 minutes of my life and sends it clunking and sputtering down a garbage disposal, although it does that with considerable skill. No, this experience made me even sorrier for the passing of Jim Varney, because I would love to see the apocalyptic duo of Ernest and Madea in one smoldering scrapheap of a movie. Hell, make it a series of movies. Send ’em to jail, camp, or even Egypt, for that matter. They could take turns mugging for the camera and firing pea-brained catchphrases back and forth like jugglers at a circus. It could’ve been so blindingly horrendous and yet so epically awesome at the same time. Alas, I’m never gonna see these two characters tiptoeing through a haunted house or delivering Christmas presents from the back of a sleigh, and I’m just gonna have to come to terms with that.
You see, Tyler Perry’s biggest problem with these movies is that he can’t commit completely to badness of them. He still seems to think there’s a ripe core at the center of this rotten peach. Perry constructs a Lifetime Channel melodrama, replete with a gorgeous young cast of couples and a model suburban home. He then surrounds this attractiveness with the ever-annoying Madea (Perry) and her cackling, belching squad of loonies. They waft into every scene like a stinking, sustained fart, churning out noxious fumes of unfunny dialogue in all directions. These two sets of characters fill the movie like oil and water, only amplifying how inconsistent and incoherent it is. Had Perry tilted the story toward his gibbering psychos, Funeral could’ve been the cookies and cream or rocky road of a Bad Movie Baskin Robbins. Unfortunately, I’m afraid its ineptitude is just plain ol’ vanilla.
As for the “plot,” I’m not even sure where to start. Madea and her assorted family (most of whom are played, with varying degrees of obnoxiousness, by Perry himself) descend on Atlanta for a family reunion. Or an anniversary party. Or, was it an engagement party? Ah, screw it–some kinda gathering. You get the idea. These Bush-League Klumps stumble into a hotel room, where they discover one of their guests of honor in an embarrassing, post-mortem position. So, the celebration turns into a funeral, but it also takes on the qualities of a soap opera as their young relatives try to suss out which of them has been cheating. Mainly, all this gibberish is just an excuse for Perry to riff through scene after scene and bring the story to screeching, smoking halt.
George Carlin once observed that a person is truly old when they no longer think farts are funny. I can enjoy lowbrow humor as much as anyone, and bad movies are a notorious, lifelong weakness. Unfortunately, A Madea Family Funeral fails on both fronts: It’s not unfunny enough to be hilarious, and not bad enough to be fascinating. Varney’s Ernest franchise was bad, and knew it was bad. That gave those movies a kind of shambling charm that’s missing here. Madea could’ve been so much more by aiming for so much less.