Movie Monday: Boo! A Madea Halloween

This is the first Madea movie I have seen. Its thin, wobbly plot involves a divorced father (played by Tyler Perry) who is called out of town and wants someone to watch his willful 17-year-old daughter. His Aunt Madea (also played by Perry), Madea’s brother (also played by Perry) and two of Madea’s friends come to stay at the family house and keep an eye on the girl.

The daughter and her friend sneak out of the house to attend a fraternity Halloween party. Madea and friends go to bring them home, and hilarity ensues. The father is called back, and there is a long discussion among the adults about how to discipline the disobedient teenager.

Some scary clowns and the de rigueur band of zombies are shoehorned into the action but are by no means frightening. (This was fine with me — I lost my interest in horror films around the same time I lost interest in roller coasters.)

Madea, as played by 6-foot-5 Tyler Perry, is a an amusing character who speaks her mind and, when provoked, cold-cocks anyone who tangles with her. In conversation, she doesn’t have much of a filter, and it’s fun to watch her spar verbally with everyone she meets.

The audience in the theater where I saw the film was larger than I expected, and about 40 percent African American. My fellow film-goers laughed more loudly and more often than I can recall at any other comedy I have seen. My guess is that they had enjoyed previous Madea movies and had come back for another helping. They loved the “Boo!” movie.

 
Tyler Perry

Perry was raised in New Orleans by an abusive father and a churchgoing mother. His formal education career ended with his GED, and he spent most of his 20s in Atlanta perfecting a musical play based on his difficult childhood. After that effort was completed and became a success, he used his self-taught skills to write, develop and produce plays, films, television series (most notably, House of Payne) and books.

His works generally include Christian and family-values themes that do not always appeal in our largely post-religious country. Personally, I am not offended by religious characters or people setting good standards for young people in movies, but these elements are pretty darn scarce these days.

Although Perry is among the most successful African Americans in the entertainment industry, some African American auteurs have charged that his characters are outdated black stereotypes.

For many years, white critics gushed about his work, but even they have come to resent some of his themes. One of his noncomedic movies, for example, was the story of a woman who cheated on her husband, blowing up their marriage and contracting HIV from her paramour; this was seen as heavy-handed moralizing.

Since this was my first Tyler Perry experience, I don’t consider myself qualified to evaluate his oeuvre. Maybe later.

But I will say this about “Boo!” It cost a modest $20 million to make and was the most-attended film in the country in its first two weekends. In addition to covering production expenses, the $52 million in ticket sales likely will cover the film’s promotion and advertising; every additional ticket, pay-per-view rental and television screening will be profit. It’s a smart business model.

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