It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Five years ago, my RogerEbert.com colleague Steven Boone and I wrote a very long online piece on Tyler Perry. Neither of us sought to dismiss him, and I expressed much admiration both for how he built his own studio and for how brilliant actresses of color trusted him so passionately with their performances. But I found his direction to be extremely problematic. For example, there were moments in “For Colored Girls” where Perry was as bonkers and fearless as Sam Fuller, but he could never seal the deal in the visual way the cinematic medium needed.
As for Perry’s most famous character, Madea, I’ve always thought she worked better on stage, where her broadness plays to the back of a theater filled with fans expressing fellowship and jonesing on the Christian music and message of the plays. Unlike many of Madea’s prior movies, “Tyler Perry’s Boo! A Madea Halloween” didn’t originate as a hit stage play. The idea started as a joke in Chris Rock’s hilarious “Top Five,” where the latest Tyler Perry production has Madea fighting ghosts. Despite the mockery, Perry liked the concept and shot this movie in 6 days.
The idea of a supernatural addition to Madea’s litany of pet peeves intrigued me. I would have enjoyed seeing her cuss out demons and slap the taste out of the mouths of disrespecting spirits. Unfortunately, the only supernatural aspect of “Tyler Perry’s Boo! A Madea Halloween” is the “boo” in the title. Instead, the plot concerns itself with Madea (Tyler Perry) trying to keep her great niece Tiffany (Diamond White) from attending a Halloween party at the lamest fraternity I have ever seen. When things go horribly awry for the frat, they plot a Halloween-themed vengeance on Madea and her cohorts Aunt Bam (Cassie Davis), Hattie (Patrice Lovely) and Joe (Tyler Perry).
Madea’s nephew Brian (Tyler Perry, again) summons her to his house to keep an eye on his daughter while he’s out of town. He fears she will disobey his orders and attend the frat party. Brian is a doormat whom Tiffany disrespects in ways that would never fly in a Madea-run household. Tiffany’s behavior becomes the basis for the typical whiplash-inducing dramatic change in tone for which Perry’s films are notorious. Before we get there, however, we have to deal with the party, the pranks and the constant bickering between Madea and her crew.