A Madea Homecoming offers conclusive evidence that Perry’s work as a (melo)dramatist is, at this point, far superior to his comedic endeavors.
With 47 directorial and 46 writing credits on the books for 2022 already (spread across a few different BET+ programs, his shows making up the cornerstone of the streaming service’s library), it’s rather astounding that Tyler Perry found time to write, direct, and star in a new Madea film for Netflix. Yet, this has been the case for the last several years of Perry’s career, the billionaire/media mogul/auteur’s ability to produce content autonomously at his 330-acre production studio in Atlanta (unveiled in 2015) having pushed him toward breakneck shooting and release schedules that ensure there’s always something bearing his name out in the culture at any given time. This play for ubiquity has predictably come at the cost of a traditionally appealing formalism, but this brute force production style (5-day shoots accomplished by shuttling actors back and forth between sets via golf cart) has also brought about some fascinatingly wonky works like Acrimony and A Fall from Grace, hysterical melodramas anchored by esteemed casts and screenplays defying conventional narrative logic. Unfortunately, those qualities, thus far peaking with A Fall from Grace, the inaugural Perry/Netflix release, don’t carry over to their reteam, A Madea Homecoming, which dives back into the director’s most enduring, and least interesting, continuity with slightly more energy than his last outing. That previous film, A Madea Family Funeral, promised the end of Perry’s iconic comedic persona, and with its morbid theming, one might have reasonably assumed that she was destined for a truly final ending. But Funeral avoided committing to anything that would render Madea’s time off screen permanent and, expectedly enough, A Madea Homecoming sees Perry don his wig and various prosthetics for one last go round as his divisive (but still generally quite popular) creation.
Born out of Perry’s determination that, more than anything, the world needs laughter in these fraught, politically heated times, A Madea Homecoming broadcasts its creator’s anxieties about the current cultural climate while dutifully carrying out the usual crass gags and rambling improv. This outing has Madea riffing with her brother Joe (also Perry, cranking his pervy old man bit to max volume), Cassi Davis’ Aunt Bam, and David Mann’s Mr. Brown in the lead-up to a graduation party for a grand nephew (Brandon Black) anxious to come out to the family, and his roommate, a half-Irish international student (Isha Blaaker) with his own overbearing great aunt (Irish comedian Brendan O’Carroll’s unpleasant BBC sitcom character Mrs. Brown, a crossover few were likely anticipating) and explosive secret. Laughter may have been Perry’s primary aim with A Madea Homecoming, but as with most of his productions, it’s much more interesting to sift through the filmmaker’s messaging and attempts at course correction, this film’s “closeted gay nephew” plot a rather late-to-the-game apology toward those who have pushed back on the homophobic material that’s surfaced on occasion throughout his body of work. There’s also some attempt to bring a nuanced (re: centrist) voice to questions of police abolition that finds Perry softening his characters’ canonically anti-cop position (Family Funeral featured a particularly biting gag in relation to this subject that’s vigorously backed away from here) in an unsatisfying and unconvincing manner. Those two descriptors perhaps best-suited to characterize A Madea Homecoming, this entry is at least graced with some of the nicest cinematography seen in a Perry production in some time (thanks to Bieber’s go to DP Taylor Randall, who somehow makes the director’s continued insistence on shooting in widescreen work here), plus some wonderfully tacky iMovie-esque transitions (cutting away from a scene at a basketball court by filling the screen with CGI basketballs) not dissimilar to those used in Amalia Ulman’s El Planeta. But narratively and comedically, this production never picks up. A Madea Homecoming landed at #1 when it debuted on Netflix in numerous countries this past Friday, and remains in the top 5 even now. Clearly, Tyler Perry could keep this schtick going near indefinitely, but one hopes that he might resist the urge, with his work as a dramatist having surpassed his comedic labors long ago.
You can currently stream Tyler Perry’s A Madea Homecoming on Netflix.