A chill falls over the crowd. The theater grows dark. A child begins to cry, begging not to have to watch. A single tear rolls down my face. No, this is not an execution. It is Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas. I’m trying to joke about this movie, but something broke inside me as I was watching. There is something that no longer works correctly in my brain, and this movie is the reason.
The film follows Madea (Tyler Perry) and Eileen (Anna Maria Horsford) journeying down South to surprise visit Eileen’s daughter Lacey (Tike Sumpter) on the farm with her hired help Conner (Eric Lively), a white dude. Trouble is, he’s not the help, unless you count the fact that he helped put a ring on it. That’s right, this movie is about interracial marriage, so buckle in folks. If you thought a Tyler Perry movie wouldn’t have a ton of hamfisted emotional melodrama, you’re in for a nasty surprise. The trouble here is that Eileen is racist against white people, and would hate to see this. Also, Conner’s abusive brother Chad Michael Murray is threatening him, Larry the Cable Guy is a character, and the Christmas Jubilee might be cancelled! Oh no!
Seriously, the fucking Christmas Jubilee might be cancelled? Can we have one movie without that shit?
Though it felt far longer, A Madea Christmas really only stole just over 100 minutes from my life. That’s far less than a woman could steal from me, so I consider that a plus.
The writing is terrible—terrible. I’ll say this: The other dismal experience of the year, Grown Ups 2, knew the structure of a joke, even when the punchline had something to do with a bodily fluid. In A Madea Christmas, lines that are apparently meant to be “comedic” slide out of actors’ mouths with almost no setup, beyond Madea responding to a statement with something sassy. One of the first lines is Eileen entering a room on the count of three, and Madea ranting about how you’re supposed to enter on the count of three. Later, Madea milks a cow, then falls over yelling, “I DUN FELL IN BULL-moooo” (a cow mooed, because this is a family movie).
And when the jokes are set up, it’s Madea setting up her own jokes, which is the worst type of comedy. Observe:
Madea: “Ooh, I forgot to take my medicine this morning!”
Eileen: “What Medicine?”
Madea: “5 MILLIGRAMS OF DON’T CHOKE DAT HO”
If possible, the acting is worse. Perry is all right as Madea, actually a bit (disturbingly) convincing as the batshit lady, but everyone else is horrible. Wide-eyed line delivery that aches of being memorized from a page and should be in a stage play is the order of the day. Yes, I know this is from a stage play, but that doesn’t mean that Perry has to write and direct his piece like it’s a fucking stage play. It is a movie, and it needs to act like it. Larger than life reactions and oddly delayed responses make it seem like a call for “line!” was just barely edited out. Then Madea would probably say “THAT MAKES ME WANT TO DO A LINE! AHAHAHA!”
The movie is filled with unpleasant people. Madea herself is a complete and total bitch. The opening scene finds her starting a new job as a department store greeter, dressed in a Santa suit. And instead of acting like a normal person, she rips into everyone, unwarranted. She criticizes an older woman for wanting to buy lingerie, and also threatens an Asian woman with violence. Then she steals money from the register as well as a couple of dresses before leaving, with everyone watching. Oh, and later she punishes a young’un for stealing her purse by gagging her and tying her to a cross with Christmas lights.
Nobody else is really that great, either. Lacey is a paragon of goodwill, morality, and overall niceness. So is Conner. These are too annoyingly perfect people in a sea of abhorrent souls. Eileen’s behavior is downright fucking annoying, from asking Conner to do stuff and expressing annoyance that he’s on “their land” to thinking Larry the Cable Guy and his wife are from the KKK (yeah, they go there). Those two are pretty down-to-earth and nice, but their downright creepy sex talk and innuendos give them black marks. Chad Michael Murray takes the cake, however, as the ultimate standard-issue redneck (if that even makes sense), taking about all the work there is to do on the farm, hating the corporation, hating black people, loving Christmas, loving farming, hating his brother, loving his truck, talking about corn, and hating his family. Or as Madea would say “THAT BOY NEEDS TO GET LAID AHAHAHHA!”
Of course, since it’s both a Tyler Perry movie and a Christmas movie, everything has to be resolved by the end so every character can have some Christmas cheer. As expected, things are resolved, completely abruptly. This is the premature ejaculation of plot resolutions, seriously. One second, Chad Michael Murray is an asshole redneck racist and Eileen is a bitchy racist herself, but then she comes across the guy, a stranger, and saves him from an accident. All of a sudden, CMM loves his son, gives Eileen a pie for saving him, apologizes to everyone he’s wronged, makes up with his brother, and Eileen gives everyone a second change and acts nice for a change. It takes five seconds for everyone to start being nice after they’ve spent 90 minutes acting like dicks to each other. “Oh hey, I hate everyone but maybe someday SPLORT oh, Merry Christmas and I love everything!” And then Madea is like “OH THAT BOY REMINDS ME OF MY HUSBAND’S JUNK TROUBLE AHAHA”
What might be the worst, however, are the scene transitions. The soul-killing segments may very well be the worst thing to happen to film, ever. Remember the “screen wipe” from Star Wars? Now imagine if that wipe was accompanied with a poorly-rendered CGI Christmas decoration. That’s right, at multiple times throughout the film, a scene is changed via a large Christmas tree, pile of presents, or what-have-you. It is infuriating when these show up, an extra sock to the gut. This film likes to kick you when it you’re down, and then Madea’s all like “CALL THE PO PO HO! AHAHAHA!”
If I wanted to watch an ugly bag yell at me for an hour and a half, I’d still be in a relationship. There have been a lot of bad Christmas movies, but this one is pretty far up there. Gazing intently at the theater screen, scrunched up in my seat, my mind screamed for it to end. Every new scene was another torture visited upon my psyche. I’m not sure if there’s any coming back from this horror.
For some reason this kept going through my head.
Do a Shot: for every scene transition featuring Christmas decorations wiping across the scene.
Take a Drink: every time Madea or Larry the Cable Guy laughs at their own joke.
Do a Shot: if someone else laughs at the joke.
Take a Drink: for every Christmas movie cliché.
Take a Drink: every time someone does something shitty.