BY ROBERT HAMMERLE, guest contributor to Hammervision
For what it is worth, I have never hidden the fact that I have been a big fan of Tyler Perry for years. No, I don't think he writes, produces and directs great movies, but I do appreciate how he has viscerally connected with his core audience, namely African American women.
I make it a point to see his movies on the first weekend of their general release, always at a theater where I am likely to be one of the few white people in the audience. (And I can tell you without exception that I have always been the only white man.) The reason is simple, as Perry's movies function as a spectacle with the audience interacting with the film. The women in the audience both understand and fully relate to most of Perry's characters, and it produces a visceral response that is a joy to observe.
And it is for that very reason that I came away from Perry's new film, "Madea's Big Happy Family," not just disappointed but horrified. Something has happened to Mr. Perry, both on and off screen, and it isn't good.
Not only is there nothing remotely uplifting about this film, but it has a caustic, offensive underbelly that was bitter to the point of being puerile. Every character, and I mean every one including Perry's Madea, are one dimensional caricatures of loathsome and selfish human beings. The women are little more than screaming harpies, while the men are spineless lightweights that you just want to slap.
And slap is the principal metaphor of this film. Everyone is so wretched, even the children, that the central message of "Happy Family" is that you literally have to beat the crap out of an individual, or at least threaten to do so, to make them come to their senses. This movie had me constantly looking away in abject shame for the characters.
And yet I would be remiss if I did not point out that there was one character in this sordid mess that stood out, embodying what may be one of the most irritating characters in the history of film. It seems that the young, struggling ex-con Byron (played by Bow Wow) has a ghastly ex-girlfriend who is the mother of their small child. I won't name the actress as she probably is presently in therapy somewhere, but her repetitive screaming of her boyfriend's name (B-y--r--o--n) had an audience full of Perry's devotees resisting the urge to flee the theater.
And I am not over exaggerating one bit.While some of you may already be informed of the ongoing feud between Spike Lee and Mr. Perry, I think Spike misses the point. Perry's problem is not his "Steppin Fetchit" characterizations as much as he has sold out. Oh sure, he'll have a few moments of some uplifting singing in a church as he almost always does, but these scenes fail to mask the sad but real fact that you literally don't care about a single person who is on the screen.
Shame on you Mr. Perry, your loyal audience deserves far more for their hard earned dollar.