The quarterly dividend from Tyler Perry Inc. is out, and fans/investors will be happy to see the company has renewed its focus on its core business, putting Perry in a wig, dress and over-size glasses.
Tyler Perry's Madea's Big Happy Family — which opened last week, but no review was available at press time — is stuffed to the gills with Perry's mix of the sacred and the silly, and a serious dose of self-help for the self-absorbed.
It's as messy as any of Perry's Madea comedies: assorted characters doing weakly connected one-off scenes that are little more than extended riffs. And there's the feeling that Perry's ambitions are pulling him away from this character and this world. But if that's the case — and Big Happy Family does seem to wrap up most everything about the extended Simmons/Brown/etc. clan of Atlanta in a neat little harangue — at least Perry leaves it all on the court. Which is to say, he and his ensemble are funnier than they've been in ages.
Madea's niece Shirley (Loretta Devine) is sick with "the cancer." She resolves to round up her family to give them all the news over a big family dinner.
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The joint-smoking/chain-smoking Aunt Bam (Cassi Davis, a hoot) has been her only help. But Shirley's kids are a problem. They won't sit down together.
Byron (Shad "Bow Wow" Moss) is in and out of jail, dealing with a monstrous baby mama and his new girlfriend.
Tammy (Natalie Desselle Reid) is a nagging shrew raising two insolent, ill-mannered brats.
And Kimberly (Shannon Kane) is a harridan in her own right, too mean and rich to want to spend time with her mother or siblings.
It's up to Madea to climb into her ancient Cadillac to round up the offspring so their momma can say goodbye.
Perry takes it on himself to comically lift the movie out of its melodramatic moments, exhaling a breathless patter of profane insults, advice and life lessons. His bit on the "traffic jam" years of life, ages 40 to 50, would make Dr. Phil jealous, and his own-your-own-actions philosophy can seem refreshing, when Madea's not hectoring this husband or that one to "be a man" and put his woman in her place.
But his jokes, all the way through to the film's outtakes, land more often than not.
If he's moving on from Madea — this spring's film for colored girls and his next couple of announced projects suggest he is — at least Perry's doing right by the old broad, letting her bow out like one big, wise-cracking mother of a momma.