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Movie Review

Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Family Reunion

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic material, domestic violence, sex and drug references

Reviewed by: Davita Westbrook
CONTRIBUTOR

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Comedy, Drama, Adaptation, Sequel
Length:
1 hr. 47 min.
Year of Release:
2006
USA Release:
February 24, 2006 (wide)
Copyright, Lion’s Gate Films
Copyright, Lion’s Gate Films
Copyright, Lion’s Gate Films
Copyright, Lion’s Gate Films
Copyright, Lion’s Gate Films
Copyright, Lion’s Gate Films
Copyright, Lion’s Gate Films
Copyright, Lion’s Gate Films
Copyright, Lion’s Gate Films
Copyright, Lion’s Gate Films
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Review: DIARY OF A MAD BLACK WOMAN

Featuring: Tyler Perry, Blair Underwood, Henry Simmons, Boris Kodjoe, Jenifer Lewis
Director: Tyler Perry
Producer: Michael Paseornek, Peter Block, Tyler Perry
Distributor: Lion’s Gate Films

“There’s nothing broken that can’t be fixed with love.”

Mabel “Madea” Simmons (Tyler Perry) returns as a pistol-packin’, no nonsense Southern matriarch, who struggles both with her new role as court-appointed foster mother to Nikki (Keke Palmer), and the various trials and travails of assorted family members, all while trying to organize this year’s family reunion.

The main story revolves around two sisters, Lisa (Rochelle Aytes) and Vanessa (Lisa Arrendell Anderson) and their grasping, evil diva of a mother Victoria, played with ferocious glee by the incomparable Lynn Whitfield. Victoria clearly tries to live her own life through one daughter, while mistreating the other. Lisa is engaged to Carlos (Blair Underwood), a successful, but verbally and physically abusive lawyer, while Vanessa tentatively explores a relationship with Frankie, a bus driver, (Boris Kodjoe), and deals with her own issues around sexual abuse and single parenthood.

The stories culminate in two powerful scenes, the family reunion and a spectacular wedding, where the values of love, forgiveness, redemption, reconciliation, and family are all on full display.

Unfortunately, virtues of the film notwithstanding, the moral issues will give new, and less-seasoned Christians considerable cause for concern. Mature Christians will understand that we live in a world where everyone does not proclaim Christ. Madea is not saved, she s not claiming to be, but she is a conduit for truth, through her love for her family and the many affirmations and encouragement she passes on to her foster child.

Uncle Joe (also played by Tyler Perry) is no doubt supposed to be played for comic relief, but this time out, as opposed to his appearance in Perry’s debut effort “Diary of a Mad Black Woman”, the character is lewd, vulgar and objectionable. He’s not funny; he’s crude. The potty humor, combined with a potty mouth, are more than some Christians will be able to tolerate. A particular scene with several old men, ogling a young female relative no less, is particularly disturbing juxtaposed against Vanessa’s struggle to overcome childhood sexual assault by a trusted family member.

Language is also be an issue. I lost count of the h***(s), and you can expect a few d***(s), a couple of illegitimate child’(s), and a couple of more female dogs’. Perry is famously anti-profanity, but skittish and sensitive viewers will not appreciate the words that do appear, especially for pre-teen children, no matter how authentic the language is to the characters.

Violence is relatively mild. Madea does not take her pistol from her purse (although we all know it’s there); she’s mostly all bark and a little bite (ask the boy on the bus). Oh, and I’m sure Nikki, the new foster child, would have something to say about the spanking she receives after skipping school. However, the violence that is depicted in the form of domestic abuse is intense and disturbing. Blair Underwood gives the most nuanced, affecting and true-to-life performance in the movie. Menacing, barely restrained violence pulses beneath the surface of his urbane, sophisticated exterior; it is palpable and disturbing. Carlos controls and intimidates Lisa, and her fear becomes the audience’s fear. It is brilliantly captured and extremely terrifying. The intensity of these scenes would be inappropriate for all but the most mature teenagers. Be prepared to talk about it. The issue needs to be raised, because too many live with the reality of domestic violence on a daily basis, but know that the depiction is frighteningly real.

For the most part, the women are modestly (and beautifully) attired. At the family reunion, the younger women dance suggestively and are realistically shown wearing today’s inappropriate clothing. A number of bare-chested men appeared evocatively and surprisingly throughout. Those with eye-gate concerns: consider yourself warned.

On the positive side, Tyler Perry should be celebrated for his bold, and courageous stand against premarital sex, violence, and hardcore language in his films and plays. The film portrays Frankie and Vanessa’s budding romantic relationship sweetly and innocently, and their respective children are included in most of their interactions. Their one kiss is warm and brief. There is one scene where they fall asleep in the same bed, their children interspersed between them. Though some will no doubt be concerned with the “appearance of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22), the scene is tender and loving. Frankie and Vanessa unapologetically and firmly proclaim their intention to save sex for marriage, an important and too seldom seen message for teenagers and adults alike.

Of particular note are the brief but profound performances of Cicely Tyson, who reprises her role as Madea’s sister-in-law Myrtle, and Maya Angelou, the voices of wisdom and experience (Titus 2). At the reunion, the family gathers, young and old, to listen to Myrtle exhort the younger generation of men and women to “remember where they came from” and to treat each other with love, dignity and respect, all under the loving gaze of 96-year old “Aunt Ruby.”

And finally the spectacular wedding scene provides a touching and dramatic culmination of all the earlier drama. The scene will strain credulity, as does most of the film, but you may forgive the sentimentality because of the raw, heartwarming expressions of love. Perry knows his way around pretty words. Fans of Orlando, from Diary, who famously says, “I carry you in my spirit. I pray for you more than I pray for myself,” will not be disappointed.

From a moviemaking standpoint, there are numerous plot implausibilities, too-tidy solutions to difficult problems, a healthy serving of melodrama and soap-opera-like shenanigans. Brian (Tyler Perry) reappears from the first film, but his wife Debra is explained away as being “in the kitchen” and daughter Tiffany, who tutors Nikki, is never seen. While this may work in the play world, the more sophisticated movie-going audience will be disappointed. We want to see the characters we fell in love in the first film. Earlier trailers for the movie showed Isaac (the underutilized Henry Simmons) and Brian having a conversation where Isaac bemoans the fact that he never had a man in his life to show him how to be a good husband and father. Brian responds by saying, we have to be a generation of men who changes that. Inexplicably, this clip must have ended up on the cutting room floor, along with a good bit of the character and plot development. Another thirty minutes might have afforded the story the time it needed to be fully drawn.

The challenge for filmmakers like Perry is realistically presenting the lives of non-Christians and Christians alike, without offending the sensibilities of either group. Striking that balance is an ongoing concern, and in my opinion, Perry is to be applauded for taking a stand for righteousness. However, this time out, the message of salvation (John 3:16, 2 Corinthians 5:17) is muted against the backdrop of questionable language and behavior that will be difficult for some to overlook. The first film was unabashedly about Jesus; in this the film, the message is still there, but not as strongly framed. The Bible says, if our message is hid, it’s hid to them who are lost (2 Corinthians 4:3).

Perry is lovingly telling the story of African American families with characters that are flawed, human and recognizable, and he’s conveying a message of hope that transcends the boundaries of culture, gender and age. He is undaunted in his quest to keep his movies clean, and always with a Christian theme and message. In this film, however, there are not enough positive images to recommend it without extensive reservation. But because his motive is agreeable with Scripture and his message is the gospel of salvation, I will continue to pray for and support Tyler Perry, so he can persevere in being a light in a dark place (Matthew 5:14-16).

Violence: Mild / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: Minor

See our review of the prequel to this movie: DIARY OF A MAD BLACK WOMAN

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer Comments
Comments below:
Positive
Positive—I do not see many movies because I am so often offended and disappointed in the content (even in “children’s” movies). I am sensitive to sex, violence and language. That being said, I somehow found myself sitting in “Madea’s Family Reunion” not expecting to be pleased about much. I have not been as blessed by Hollywood in a long time! My husband and I are so glad we saw it! The reality combined with biblical truth was refreshing.

Yes, we agree it is not “clean” and is for mature audiences (yet it is no worse than Bible stories). More importantly, it is a relevant movie for today’s American culture, which lifts up Jesus’ name in a positive way and shows a couple who saves themselves for marriage, because of their commitment to Christ. It also addresses difficult topics such as family abuses and drug addiction without tolerating them.

What we are thrilled about is this: millions are seeing this movie expecting good humor, and what they get is much deeper — saving grace of Jesus proclaimed (yes, in a positive manner), an example of how to live life right, undeserving forgiveness given, love received, and more. We can overlook the language and such, yet not condone it. After all, this is the state of our world.
My Ratings: Average / 4
—Kim V., age 34
Positive—I am so glad my husband and I took our 14 year old son to this movie. …the message of love, abuse, and caring for each other applies to us all. I truly believe that teenage Christian boys need to see this movie. As was taught in the reunion scene, young men need to step up and be leaders of their families and of the world. For a young, impressionable teen to see the abuse being inflicted by a “successful” man on his fiance… we can’t keep this hidden from our youth. And, for a young man to hear vows spoken by a groom as was done in the final scene… this is what our young men need to see more of. Teen boys and girls sell themselves short and have such low expectation of themselves, even the teens who are Christians.

Yes, I got tired of the crude humor of the uncle, but it was welcome comic relief in some intense scenes.

Bottom line, this movie reminds us that family is to take care of each other and that if we are faithful to the Lord, he will bless us.
My Ratings: Good / 3
—Jill R, age 40
Positive—This is a great movie by Mr. Perry, except for some of the swearing. I believe it definitely expresses how we as a family need to go back or should I say “reinforce” our family values or morals. The Bible talks about telling the generations about God and His commands. We (Christian Families) have a continuous responsibility to each generation.

Deu 32:7, Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations: ask thy father, and he will shew thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee. Ps 78:5-7, For He established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children: That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments.

Thank you Mr. Perry and keep up the good work!
My Ratings: Good / 4
—Desiree, age 41
Positive—I think this movie was very well made, and it appealed to real christians who know everyday isn’t Sunday. I read comments about it being offensive, but that’s the problem with some Christians. This movie was made for saved and unsaved alike. It’ll give people who aren’t saved a message of hope and lead them to Christ and those who are save some real to life entertainment. There was no sex, and these people really did love each other. When was the last time we’d gotten an entertaining, christian-based movie that wasn’t cheesy (The Passion doesn’t count, cause it wasn’t a comedy)? Madeas character was not meant to be saved and spirit-filled and neither was Joe. Their characters fit the movie, and Helen’s character acted on emotion at first, but did the christian thing when she came to herself. Most of us do the same thing in our lives, but we criticize Tyler Perry for putting it on film? We Christians today need to stop acting like our churches don’t deal with these same issues. The people who gave this a negative rating are the reason why we’re not reaching the lost. They aren’t willing to face the real, they just want to believe christians don’t have Madeas and Joes. This movie was great, and I applaud Tyler Perry for being able to step out and make a movie that deals with such sensitive topics. A lot of women will be able to be freed from their situations.
My Ratings: Excellent! / 4
—First Lady Meanna Kintaudi, age 25
Positive—I found the movie to be quite amusing. As far as offensive, I disagree. Christians tend to live in a bubble and shame everyone else that don’t see the world like they do. At one point in time some of us were just as vulgar and offensive until God turned us around. So I have compassion for others that don’t know. I have to see others through the eyes of God and remember that everyone can’t be on the same level.

The movie was good and I loved all characters because Christian or not everyone has someone in their family just like them. I can identify and love each and every one of them. Something to remember from Luke 6:31-38.
My Ratings: Good / 4
—Alanda, age 36
Positive—I think that this movie was great for Christians, because what other movie can Christians go see that gives God credit and glory? I think that some Christians get into the idea that movies that are supposed to be ultra conservative and neglect real life events that go on in real life. I think that the movie portrayed real people and their responses in a way that is true to life, and the lessons that the movie taught were relevant to many people’s lives.
My Ratings: Average / 4
—Tyrome, age 19
Positive—This is a great movie. If you have followed Medea throughout Tyler Perry’s plays you will understand why. I have attended all of his plays and could not wait to see this on the big screen. All of his plays and movies are based on Christian values. Just like his plays, this ends in deliverance. It’s taking real, everyday family issues—and 99.9% of us has someone in their family, uncle, cousin sister, brother you get the picture, that needs a wake up call! It shows how why families need to think “generations” ahead. There was nothing morally wrong with this movie. If I could rate this over a 5, I would. My daughter(14 years) loves all of his plays and movies, and actually has learned a few things from them. Get this DVD and also check out “Medea Goes to Jail”. It’s so funny!!
My Ratings: Excellent! / 5
—Gia Ballard, age 35
Positive—…I truly believe that everything in the movie happens for a reason. The fact that Brian’s wife is mentioned but not seen is a testament to the fact that she is a work in progress. The mention of his children shows that they are still around and that the basis of the film deals with more “adult” situations. Their family is a portrait of a lot of families that are rarely depicted or even mentioned. Uncle Joe is like a lot of people who don’t care what they say or do. It is what some people call “set in their ways.” I liked the fact that Carlos was a very prestigious, successful man. Most of the time they are the ones that beat their women. The fact that Madea brought the little girl into her house and changed her ways was phenomenal. I have seen several foster parents get countless children but never adopt them for the money. I believe it is said that if you spare the rod you spoil the child. A spoiled child is one that stays in that abusive relationship like Lisa did. Skipping school is a very dangerous act and a child should be disciplined if they decide to do it.

The movie was wonderful to me. The message brought by Cicely Tyson summed up the entire movie. Everything happened for that reason. I was raised in the church. My father is a pastor. He saw the movie with me and when asked about the language he replied, “Children will hear those words more on the playground than in this movie.” As a teacher I can tell you it is true. Children need to learn how to deal with reality and still be steadfast in their beliefs and faith. If you are not secure in your faith and that easily impressionable you should not watch it. If you take your children—sit down and discuss it afterwards. You are your child’s first teacher—be a good one.
My Ratings: Better than Average / 4
—TuLisha Haynes, age 27
Neutral
Neutral—After Tyler Perry’s “Diary of a Mad Black Woman”, my wife and I were on the edge of our seats awaiting the return of the ever funny Mable (Madea) Simmons. We own all the stage plays and loved the way Jesus was the center of the plays and the first film. Unfortunately, after viewing “Family Reunion”, I was utterly disappointed. I actually left the film with a heavy heart and spirit. The truth is, while the film was extremely funny, it lacked the substance of the truth that the first film as well as his stage plays carry. There was no mention of Jesus or salvation at all. However, there were a few scenes of forgiveness, true love and exhortation. One of the best scenes was with the main characters Lisa, Vanessa and Victoria. Where Vanessa comes to the point where she finally tells her evil mother Victoria that she forgives her for the horrible things she allowed to happen to her as a child.

Another great scene is towards the end of the film where Cicely Tyson and Maya Angelo deliver a moving speech to the younger generations, exhorting them to rise up and be what God has called them to be. Moreover, the film does deal with some real life issues such as: abuse, pre-marital sex and real love. I would not recommend bringing your pre-teen or teenager to see this film.

One thing the film does showcase is what the Bible says in John 10:10 “The thief comes but to steal, kill and destroy, but I have come that you may have life and life more abundantly.” You can see the people in the film who are not saved or serving the Lord are extremely lost, while those who are have experienced the true deep and real love of a relationship with Jesus Christ are working towards a stronger relationship with him, i.e.: (Vanessa and Frankie’s relationship). This is not a must see film in my opinion and lacks the true gospel message.
My Ratings: Average / 3
—Ryan Rice, age 23
Comments from young people
Positive—This is a great movie. If you’re looking for a funny movie, then this is it.
My Ratings: Excellent! / 5
—Stephanie Skelton, age 13