REVIEW — “Boo! A Madea Halloween”
Boo! A Madea Halloween is the ninth installment in Tyler Perry’s Madea franchise, and if you’re a Tyler Perry diehard, A Madea Halloween is probably enough to satisfy your cravings for some spooky comedy – but if you’re drawn to A Madea Halloween because it’s the lone Halloween-themed film occupying theaters, you might be disappointed to learn this comedy is on par with the Halloween episodes your favorite sitcoms will be airing in the week ahead. (ABC alone has seasonally-appropriate episodes of The Middle, The Goldbergs, Fresh Off the Boat, Speechless, American Housewife, Modern Family, and Black-ish just days away – why pay for sitcom quality jokes when you can tune in at home and get them for free?)
A 22 minute sitcom stretched to nearly two hours, A Madea Halloween is light on big laughs and even lighter on plot – the latter works in its favor (breezy comedies are always welcome), but the former is its biggest sin. Movies, and comedies in particular, don’t have to be dense in story – but if you’re first and foremost a comedy, like A Madea Halloween, you have to have more incentive for audiences who trek to a theater, pay theater prices, and dole out cash for overpriced snacks, especially when practically every comedy on television is airing Halloween themed episodes. There aren’t any jokes in the PG-13 A Madea Halloween that you can’t see on television, so for audiences who aren’t loyal followers of the Madea character or the equally strong Tyler Perry branding, this latest cinematic offering isn’t strong enough to justify the price of admission.
When frustrated single parent Brian (Tyler Perry) solicits the babysitting services of Madea (Tyler Perry) to keep a watchful eye on his disrespectful and rebellious teenage daughter Tiffany (Diamond White) on Halloween, card carrying marijuana enthusiast Aunt Bam (Cassi Davis), cranky and crass Joe (Tyler Perry), and eccentric weirdo Hattie (Patrice Lovely) become Brian’s reluctant house sitters. Underage Tiffany and best friend Aday (Liza Hosky) escape to a Halloween bash thrown by a stereotypical fraternity, forcing scaredy cats Madea, Bam, and Hattie into foggy streets to combat ghouls, ghosts, and clowns in their efforts to deliver a justified ass-whooping.
A Madea Halloween rarely rises above feeling like a straight-to-DVD film, and its overlong opening scene – set in an obnoxious frat operated by Jonathan (played by YouTube personality Yousef Erakat, who should stick to the computer screen so that viewers can be subjugated to his personality and bad acting of their own volition) – immediately sets the tone in a bad way, with some seriously embarrassing skit-level acting making A Madea Halloween reminiscent of straight-to-DVD films that litter the “raunchy comedy” section of Netflix. Disney Channel acting is fine for the Disney Channel, but it’s unacceptable in a production that people pay to watch – and the low brow humor and sitcom quality jokes amplify the weaknesses in A Madea Halloween‘s presentation.
Like the similarly unfunny Family Guy, jokes are dragged out and run too long to the point of exhaustion – it’s bad when it happens to a funny joke, but it’s worse when this occurs with a gag that didn’t hit its mark in the first place. Pacing and comedic timing are everything when it comes to comedy, and repetitive, drawn out, unoriginal jokes are the standard rather than the exception. The characters carve out a niche for themselves and adhere to them, rigidly, throughout the entire movie: with Madea, it’s her colorful and risqué past. With Joe, it’s his off-color and crude, often sexually-motivated, remarks. With Bam, it’s weed – particularly a running joke involving her recently-operated-on hips and her marijuana prescription. The comedy never evolves – instead, there’s a gross excess of recycling, with gags being repeated past the point of expiration. A Madea Halloween isn’t a total failure – it’s pretty amiable, and it made me laugh, even if I couldn’t recall and cite a single example as soon as I’d exited past concessions – but there are only so many times a trio of spooked, elderly women can scream “help me, Jesus!” before you wonder why Perry couldn’t come up with more complex material.
A Madea Halloween is inoffensive and harmless, even when it stops being a comedy and descends into a preachy, melodramatic Very Special Episode to exhort the values of listening to and respecting your parents. (The twerking and use of YouTube personalities? Now that’s offensive. It plays like a middle aged man’s idea of what appeals to millennials). There’s nothing wrong with a movie having a message, but that blindsiding drama was at odds with the breezy gag-fest that dominated the majority of the 1 hour and 43 minute running time. As disposable as it is, A Madea Halloween is enjoyable at times and has it’s charm – it’s not tortuously unfunny – but it is more of a Redbox rental than a theater-worthy outing. Boo! A Madea Halloween is now playing.
Boo! A Madea Halloween: ★ ★½ / ★ ★★ ★ ★