“Perhaps it’s due to Perry’s integrated choice of actors, or just a happier, more reassured sense of optimism, but A Madea Christmas doesn’t feel like an overlong sermon…”

It’s no secret I’ve had a love-hate relationship with Tyler Perry. I’ve found myself more fond of Perry himself over the gargantuan, crass grandmother-in-drag character he plays. When I heard that his latest endeavor with the character of Madea would be a Christmas film with Larry the Cable Guy starring, I cringed and I cringed hard. The two seemed to exemplify the most annoying qualities of people and promote nothing but buffoonish stereotypes.

Now I’m prepared to eat my words; Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas is a delight, not just funny but consistently funny, not mawkish but conservatively emotional, and not downbeat and overly preachy, but instead insightful and bearing a message of importance. I’ll inform readers I’m not part of the film’s marketing campaign.

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas
Directed by
Tyler Perry
Tyler Perry, Chad Michael Murray, Tika Sumpter
Release Date
13 December 2013
Steve’s Grade: B+

Tyler Perry reprises the role of his Madea character, who we see in early scenes gets employed at a department store during the holiday season, working with her friend Eileen (Anna Maria Horsford). Eileen’s daughter Lacey (Tika Sumpter) works as a school teacher for a tiny private school in a rural area and lives with her husband Coner (Eric Lively) However, Eileen is unaware that Lacey and Connor have eloped, and thinks their relationship is a friendship or a close bond.

Eileen, disappointed and disgusted that Lacey is apparently too busy to spend Christmas with her, decides to take good ol’ Madea down to the rural countryside with her for a surprise visit. Shortly after they arrive, a few days before Christmas, so do Conner’s folks, Buddy and Kim (Larry the Cable Guy and Kathy Najimy, respectively), who are well aware that Lacey and their son eloped and couldn’t be happier about it. Though Eileen won’t admit it, she has questionably low tolerance for white people and already holds an absurd malice for sweet, sensitive Conner.

Perhaps it’s due to Perry’s integrated choice of actors, or just a happier, more reassured sense of optimism, but A Madea Christmas doesn’t feel like an overlong sermon nor a showcase for so many upsetting, melancholic scenarios all at once. The film feels like an evident showcase for the fact that two things are still present in society: one is the outrage and opposition to interracial marriage, and the other is the often overblown and frequently ridiculous “War on Christmas.”

“The War on Christmas” subplot, rather unexpected being that Perry is an outspoken Christian, involves Lacey’s encouragement to a young, bullied farm-boy at school named Bailey (Noah Urrea) to sing in the Nativity play the school puts on, although the town’s funds may conflict with the celebration and the play itself. It is when funding is found and the sponsors try to secularize the meanings of Jesus and the Nativity is the entire town outraged that the meaning of Christmas is being deluded into nothingness. Take out of it what you want; I didn’t find it too much of a bother, for it was a pretty small thing the film had to offer.

The subplot of interracial relationships, however, is a stronger, more subversive one for Perry, who has never tackled the issue like this before. He shows the opposition coming from the other side, the side of the black family’s, rather than the notoriously stereotyped redneck white people being the ones who want nothing to do with black people. Perry respectably paints Conner’s parents as free-thinking, liberal-minded people, who look for the heart in people rather than the tint of their skin color. Knowing Perry, I feared he’d make an attempt to make Conner’s side of the family the backwoods kind, the kind that sees marriage as a union between a man and a woman of the same color and anything else is invalid. Not here. Perry shows a tender subject with maturity and surprising conviction.

Even though the plot has numerous different characters and subplots (admittedly, it takes time for the characters and events to settle down so we can cordially space them out and develop each of them), Perry juggles everything here to the point where each story has a good amount of time to develop and the characters have enough time to say what they want to say. I think this also lends to the fact that Perry doesn’t have cloying morals or themes to throw in here, such as religious frothiness. He is focused on his characters and their feelings, along with two very current social issues in society that need to be addressed.

But the scene-stealer here is Madea. She’s brazen, uproariously funny, and breathlessly energetic, dropping lines like “I didn’t take my medicine … fifty milligrams of don’t joke that hoe” and “I’m fabulous – I’m Gone With the Wind fabulous!,” among others, has been written with more wit and a better sense of timing that she has in previous films. Maybe it’s the Christmas spirit, but A Madea Christmas is a Christmas miracle. So is the fact that two other films with Tyler Perry’s name on them – Peeples and Temptation – were some of the most irredeemable movie affairs of the year. Talk about Yuletide irony.

Review by Steve Pulaski, Lead Film Critic