Thursday, October 17, 2019

Dead Serious

Dead Serious

Is Tyler Perry ready to put a beloved character to rest?

Director, actor, and screenwriter Tyler Perry is releasing the final Madea movie, “A Madea Family Funeral.” Over the course of 10 movies the matriarchal character has gone to jail, hid out in the witness protection program, battled zombies, confronted the KKK, decked the halls and dealt with every conceivable size and stripe of disorderly and dysfunctional family member in her own outsized, inimitable style. But now, in Perry’s new and final Madea movie, she must plan a funeral — and things are about to turn deadly funny in the March 1 release of “A Madea Family Funeral.”

In Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral, Madea and family are called to bury their loved one, only to unbury a whole madcap tangle of personal secrets that threaten to unravel the family peace just when they all need to pull together. It’s all a fresh chance for Perry to stir together his trademark, high-energy mix of irreverent humor, riotous characters and uplifting themes of real-life family love, loyalty, conflict and forgiveness. Because no matter what Madea’s family faces — even death itself — the only way through it is to laugh about it.

As soon as Perry had a first flash of the idea of unleashing Madea into the solemn atmosphere of a family funeral, he could not keep the comedic thoughts from flowing. Though mortality can be a taboo topic for even the boldest of comedians, Perry has never shied away from any subject that real-life families face. More than that, he had an inkling that if Madea was put in charge of a full-scale funeral service, it would be destined to live on.

Madea (Tyler Perry, left) and Hattie (Patrice Lovely, right) in A MADEA FAMILY FUNERAL.

“I’ve been to a lot of funerals myself and though they are always sad and moving occasions, there are also a lot of hilarious things that happen at funerals,” Perry observes. “In some ways, there’s nothing funnier than some of the things I’ve seen go on at a black funeral. So I thought there was no better way to poke some fun at those rituals than to imagine Madea planning a big funeral. I mean, who would let Madea plan a funeral?”

As it turns out, the funeral Madea must suddenly step in to coordinate arises rather suddenly, so to speak. The big event everyone’s expecting is a surprise party — with Madea, brother Joe, Aunt Bam and dear friend Hattie, all arriving in their Sunday best to honor the 40th wedding anniversary of cousin Vianne and her husband Anthony. But when Madea and crew arrive at their hotel, they get a whole other kind of surprise. To their panic and dismay, they discover Anthony in a shockingly compromising position, kicking off a series of events that not only lead to a demise, but the discovery of scandals and skeletons long locked in the family closet. Even as comic chaos erupts, the story touches on motifs of owning up to your mistakes and becoming your own person.

“Once all these crazy secrets come out, the family has to find a way to heal and come together,” explains Perry. “There are themes about learning to take responsibility for how you’ve treated other people. But at heart, I just wanted to make a movie that will keep people laughing.”

Tyler Perry directs actors on the set of “A Madea Family Funeral.”

Perry recently toured the country with his live stage play, Madea’s Farewell Tour, that brings to an end the Madea’ theatrical cinema — or not? But Perry is now hinting that this funereal film might, in fact, be Madea’s own swan song. He says, “I’m so, so grateful for everything Madea has brought to my life, but, you know, I’m turning 50 and I certainly don’t want to be her age playing her,” he quips. “I feel she’s had a great run and I’m full of gratitude for it. I think lots of people found a voice through Madea and the thing that makes me happiest is that Madea has given people some really good, fun times and given entire families a way to laugh together.”

That all said, Perry does not entirely expect the ever-defiant and stubborn Madea to go off gently into that good night. “I think she will be really upset about me putting her out to pasture,” Perry says. “I just want her to go quietly, but I really think she’s gonna be a problem.”

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