Coal. A moldy fruitcake. Socks and underwear. The complete Encyclopedia Britannica set. These are items I’d prefer to receive this holiday season instead of “Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas,” an insensitive, unfunny cringer from the entrepreneurial writer-director that should have come with a gift receipt.
Gone are the days of vintage Christmas classics featuring silver screen royalty like Bing Crosby, Jimmy Stewart or Danny Kaye. I’d even take caroling Muppets over the cast of acting misfits in “Madea,” which includes Larry the Cable Guy, Kathy Najimy (of “Sister Act,” “Hocus Pocus”), and YouTube sensation “Sweet Brown,” the Oklahoma City resident who became famous overnight for saying “Ain’t nobody got time for that” on a nightly newscast.
And then there’s the cross-dressing Perry himself, whose Madea character, in this loosely-structured installment, ventures from Georgia to Alabama to surprise her friend Eileen’s daughter during the holiday season. Lacey (Tika Sumpter) is an elementary school teacher with a stocking full of problems. Her school can’t afford to hold the annual Christmas Jubilee. Her prized student, Bailey (Noah Urrea), is being bullied by his own father (Chad Michael Murray). And Lacey’s trying to avoid telling her mother, Eileen (Anna Maria Horsford), that she married Conner (Eric Lively), a white man.
These story elements rarely connect, and exist only so the sassy, straight-talking Madea can bulldoze through obvious scenarios, cracking jokes that might have been funny when Nixon was in office. Madea insults a harried Asian customer while working in a busy department store. Madea stumbles into a Ku Klux Klan rally while road-tripping through Alabama. Madea falls in a pile of cow manure while working on Lacey and Conner’s farm. Madea relays a hip-hop version of the Nativity story to Lacey’s impressionable class and concludes by hanging a misbehaving student from a life-size cross in the front of the classroom.
This is a Christmas movie?
“Something’s wrong [with her],” Eileen says of Madea. “But we accept it.” And that, in a nutshell, explains Perry and his abusive alter ego. Something’s definitely wrong with this garish grandmother figure. She riffs so quickly through her monologues, you can barely understand her patter. Every once in a while, a relevant point about ignoring skin color or keeping Christ in Christmas threatens to surface. But Perry’s quick to bury it with a crude punch line about Larry the Cable Guy’s genitalia.
Sweet Brown said it best: Ain’t nobody got time for that.
O’Connell is a freelance writer.
PG-13. At area theaters. Contains sexual references, language and crude humor. 105 minutes.