Madea's Family Reunion – DVD Review

Available at Amazon.com

Writer-Director:

Tyler Perry

Cast:

Tyler Perry……….Madea/Uncle Joe/Brian
Blair Underwood……….Carlos
Rochelle Aytes……….Lisa
Lynn Whitfield……….Victoria
Boris Kodjoe……….Frankie
Lisa Arrindell Anderson……….Vanessa
Henry Simmons……….Isaac
Maya Angelou……….May
Jenifer Lewis……….Milay Jenay Lori
Keke Palmer……….Nikki
Cicely Tyson………..Myrtle

Lionsgate and the Tyler Perry Company present Madea’s Family Reunion. Rated PG-13 (for mature thematic material, domestic violence, sex and drug references). Running time: 110 minutes. DVD release date: June 27, 2006.


The Movie

The movie industry is all about figures. Slim and petite. Curvy and vivacious. Never mind those girls next door who flock to Hollywood looking to land the role of a lifetime. The only figures executives really pore over are of the monetary variety. It’s all about the moola. Almost like the stock market, there is a risk versus reward paradigm that studios implement when finding new projects and hot properties to produce.

Most executives have the common sense to not overload their calendar year with big, tent pole pictures (blockbusters). Such movies cost in excess of hundreds of millions of dollars to produce. To have more than five inside a year is just asking for trouble.

That’s why independent companies and filmmakers offer an alternative when it comes to the over-bloated spectacles. Made for a fraction of the cost, they vary in size and scope.

Lionsgate (formally Lions Gate Films) has made some headway in recent years. They have found success in finding cheap projects – less than seven million dollars – and turning them into modest hits. In two short years, Tyler Perry, an award-winning playwright, has become a hitmeister for the studio. And he has done so with low production budgets and without much support from film critics and columnists.

His latest feature, Madea’s Family Reunion, has a 17% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Granted the movie was never screened for many reviewers, but the score is still staggering. Is the movie really as bad as those reviewers make it out to be?

No.

It’s not a masterpiece by any means, but as a matinee attraction you could do far worse.

The story centers on the flamboyant southern matriarch who just loves to ruffle feathers. Whether Madea is being arraigned in front of a judge for violating her house arrest, or taking care of others, she refuses to take any guff. She’s thick-skinned and has a loud mouth.

Madea is all about family. Her home is her sanctuary. It is the place where she takes care of her brother Joe and niece Vanessa. As violation to her house arrest she is given the option of a stay in jail or acting as a foster mother. She prefers prison and wishes to reside in Martha Stewart’s cell, but ends up leaving the courthouse with a gum-popping girl named Nikki (Keke Palmer).

Tyler Perry litters his play-to-screen adaptation with characters and interaction. Madea is the focal point, but we get a glimpse into the lives of some of her family members.

Vanessa (Lisa Arrindell Anderson) is a single parent with two children. It’s been many years since she has had a relationship, and she fears each new endeavor will end the same way: Another child, another jilted lover. Such a predisposition, Vanessa tends to close herself off from members of the opposite sex. Until a bus driver (Boris Kodjoe) enters her life. He is flirtatious as his bus picks her up after work each day. To quell the notion that he wouldn’t want to date her because she has two kids, he admits he has a child all his own.

Madea’s other niece Lisa (Rochelle Aytes) lives a comfortable life. Her husband-to-be Carlos (Blair Underwood) lavishes her with gifts as the two reside in a swank apartment. Sounds like the perfect life. But looks can be deceiving. Carlos is a bad-tempered chauvinist who sees his fiancé as nothing but a possession. When she doesn’t answer the phone promptly when he calls, he’s angry. When angered Carlos is prone to hit. He slaps Lisa around, giving her bruises and black-and-blue eyes.

Lisa tries to mask the affects with makeup. At a lunch at some hoity-toity country club she tells her mother (Lynn Whitfield) that he hits her. Victoria calmly looks at her daughter and then offers her some advice. “Well, you must stop doing what you’re doing to make him angry.” Uh hum, so in her world being hit is a rite of passage. Victoria is a pretentious she devil. Having been married to a poor musician and again to a rich man, she has done many things that would give her a one-way ticket to Hell. She doesn’t mind. “I vacation there,” Victoria says after calling her grandkids – Vanessa’s children – little bastards. The actions she has been an accessory to are unfathomable. She pilfers from one daughter’s trust fund so that she can live her affluent lifestyle. Another past action is so heinous that to mention it here would only make your stomach turn.

Unlike the typical comedies geared towards African Americans, the White Chicks, or the Fridays, Perry’s movies are unique because his plays are spirituals. They are faith-based stories that encompass moments of revenge and forgiveness. He offers a glimpse at how today’s blacks have strayed away from the struggles of their ancestors. Instead, the young women parade around in clothes that accentuate certain attributes. The men refer to said women in derogatory ways, and they call themselves by a name that, when said by a white person, is a provocative remark.

Touche.


The DVD:

THE VIDEO
(Presented in 1.85 anamorphic widescreen)

Despite its six million dollar production budget, Madea’s Family Reunion looks every bit as good as its big-budget counterparts. The video quality is good with little imperfections. There are no digital artifacts on the print. The images are copasetic, aside from the scenes involving domestic abuse. Outdoor scenes have hazy gleam, and some interior shots of the rosy variety.

THE AUDIO
(English – 5.1 and 2.0 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital)

A man of many talents, Tyler Perry even contributes to the score of the movie. He wrote many of the compositions sung by women who have a better vocal delivery. Sorry Madea. About the quality: good output, the dialogue is easily heard. The background music that accompanies the scenes is not overpowering.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Tyler Perry commentary and more!!!

Once you pick yourself off the floor after having laughed yourself silly, you can find a number of DVD extras that can get you better acquainted with the cast and crew.

The supplements begin with a commentary with Tyler Perry. He’s screen-specific with his comments as he makes observations for each new scene. Perry admits that it was Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s role in Be Cool, better yet his hairdo, which inspired him to give a similar hairstyle to actor Boris Kodjoe. Unfortunately, Perry is rather bland on the mike. Dressed as Madea or Uncle Joe, he’s as animated as he wants to be. A better alternative would be Perry in character as Madea. Though, in hindsight you need a visual commentary if you want the full effect.

If you don’t have time to watch the feature again with Perry’s commentary, try watching the making-of featurette. Running 22 minutes this EPK-style featurette focuses on different aspects of the production. It begins with some of the cast glad-handing their approval of Tyler Perry. From there some of the cast describe the characters they play in the film. Lynn Whitfield, who plays Victoria, speaks of her lack of values. Lisa Arrindell Anderson, who plays Vanessa, was attracted to the film because of her amazing story arc, including her dark childhood and the woman she is today. The last two segments offer little insight to the fashion and clothing attire worn and the production design.

To go along with the production design is the feature Marriage Madea Style. This seven-minute extra explains the work that went into creating the wedding scene for the film’s finale. The wedding dress had a 30-foot train. To comprehend the size, there is a shot from a second floor balcony and the train goes all the way to the ground.

Other featurettes are devoted to the Gaither Plantation (4:19), the setting of the family reunion, and Perry making the music of the film.

Rounding out the extras are ten minutes of deleted scenes and advertisements highlighting many of Tyler Perry’s other works, the film’s soundtrack, and Akeelah & the Bee.

THE INSIDE PULSE

Tyler Perry is a man of many talents. With last year’s Diary of a Mad Black Woman, he adapted his play to screen and acted as three different characters (Madea, Brian, and Uncle Joe). For Madea’s Family Reunion, not only does Perry write and act, but he also composes music and directs. In his writing he is able to balance comedy with human drama as the viewer gets scenes with Madea that are milk-out-of-your-nose funny, and side story arcs involving domestic abuse and a dark childhood. Some may see the acting as being aggrandized to the point of being soap opera quality. There are some idiosyncrasies, yes, but it has more to do with the characterizations than the actual acting. So, while a few will be put off by this comedy, most will enjoy it for what it is: an amusing matinee attraction with heart. A DVD worth renting.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for Madea’s Family Reunion
CATEGORY
RATING
(OUT OF 10)
THE MOVIE

7
THE VIDEO

7
THE AUDIO

7
THE EXTRAS

5
REPLAY VALUE

7.5
OVERALL
7
(NOT AN AVERAGE)