Monday, March 20, 2006

"Madea's Family Reunion" - laugh a lot, enjoy the view & seriously, uplift your consciousness

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, NY - I knew that "Home of the Brave" would be serious, right from the get-go, and watched it on Sunday afternoon because I was in the market for a quality show to celebrate Women's History Month and the tail end of "365 Days of African American History." (Click here to read my review.) But on Friday night I was in the mood to laugh. So I convinced my date to see "Madea's Family Reunion" rather than one the action flick he was lobbying for. (Click here to view the "Madea's Family Reunion" movie trailer.) We'd both seen the stage version of this and all of Tyler Perry's other shows on DVD and knew the film would be fun. But we didn't anticipate the degree to which Mr. Perry and his pistol packin' grandma alter ego, Mabel "Madea" Simmons (one of three characters he plays in the film), would load so many dead-serious and inspirational messages into this scenic gem.

The ethnically diverse audience at the cinema where we saw the film seemed to concur. We all gasped and guffawed, oohed and aahed at the appropriate moments (except one, which I'll address later), and stayed to watch the outtakes and extra treats rolled alongside the credits. Mr. Perry knows his audience...he kept us enraptured, in the palm of his hand, until Madea broke the spell broke the spell and directed, “You can go home now.”

The film's script, music (which writer, producer, actor, director Perry had a hand in), cinematography, casting and wardrobe pleased my senses, with one major exception that profoundly disappointed me. Not everyone seemed to agree; I was surprised (and red faced) to be the only one in the theater to react audibly to the rendering of the "Springtime in Paris" wedding theme pulled together by wedding planner Milay Jenay Lori (played by Jenifer Davis). When I saw it, I couldn't help but blurt out, "That's awful!" Everyone else in the theater was silent. They were probably either wishing I'd pipe down or wondering, as I was, why--given the movie's ample budget, the beauty of some scenes and realistic homeliness of others--the bridal set had to be so goldarn tacky. But that's a minor matter, like a ding in the fender of a top-of-the-line sports car, or the fact that fine-as-wine and manly-but-artistic Frankie (played by Boris Kodjoe) was not as wealthy as the equally fine, "love you to death," Carlos (played by Blair Underwood).

"Madea's Family Reunion" is not just a gem. This blockbuster's also a cash cow. According to Wikipedia, "On opening weekend, February 24, 2006 Mr. Perry's movie version of Madea's Family Reunion opened at number one with $30 million, more than triple the amount it cost to make." Furthermore, as IMDb reports, "After the first week record-breaking release of the first "Madea" film by Perry, Tyler, Lions Gate Home Entertainment acquired a seven-picture deal of the remaining Madea films." In addition to his commercial and critical success, Mr. Perry's website reports that he is currently celebrating being the first playwright of this genre to be sponsored by a major pharmaceutical company, Glaxo Wellcome.

I'm thrilled at Mr. Perry's success. Like single-mother Whoopi and motherless-at-an-early-age Madonna, the N'Awlins native and adult survivor of child abuse has joined the ranks of wildly popular self-made millionaires who have overcome substantial personal tribulations, taken odd jobs to finance their dreams, and even spent time homeless. Mr. Perry began writing stage plays at age 18, and so far has conquered stage and screen. Next on the horizon: his first novel, Don't Make a Black Woman Take Off Her Earrings: Madea's Uninhibited Commentaries on Love and Life. I can't wait to get between those sheets!

Learn more about Tyler Perry at his official website: ###