Any comedy about the madcap character of Mabel Simmons, a.k.a. Madea (Tyler Perry in drag), is going to be a hoot and a holler. Of course, you’ve got to love the loud-mouthed, browbeating, African-American matriarch as well as the gag that she is portrayed by a six-foot-five man who could just as easily impersonate Frankenstein’s hulking monster. Remember, the essence of comedy is incongruity. Think of those characters that make you laugh: the clown with big ears, hands, and feet; the willowy buffoon who holds his parachute-sized pants aloft to keep from tripping in them, and the towering individual who rides around in his sleek sports car with his head and shoulders thrust through the sunroof. The humor is all about the differences in how we look and dress. Sometimes, incongruity makes us laugh. At other times, it is used without compassion to ridicule. Half of all the laughs that Tyler Perry conjures up as Madea arise from the basis that a man has decked himself out to resemble a dame. Perry isn’t the first African-American to pull off this act. Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence beat him to the closet respectively, with “The Nutty Professor” and “Big Mama’s House.” (I’m not counting Flip Wilson as Geraldine Jones since Flip did it for television.) Nevertheless, neither Murphy nor Lawrence forged a female character as outlandish and hysterical as Madea. Moreover, neither actor created a franchise that could compete with Tyler Perry’s Madea movies. Ironically, Tyler Perry’s cinematic success with Madea hasn’t cemented him his own place on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. You know a comedy franchise is in great shape when a dude in drag sold more tickets than Tom Cruise’s “Jack Reacher” sequel “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back” during the first weekend when “Boo! A Madea Halloween” went head-to-head against Cruise. For the record, “Boo! A Madea Halloween” (*** OUT OF ****), is the eighth big-screen Madea comedy. “Meet the Browns” isn’t a full-fledged Madea movie because she only had a cameo in that dysfunctional family fable. You know you’re watching a crowd-pleasing comedy when contagious laughter from the audience drowns out the jokes that follow on the heels of previous jokes. Basically, this constitutes my only beef about “Boo! A Madea Halloween.”
Brian (Tyler Perry) and his rebellious 17-year old daughter Tiffany (television actress Diamond White) quarrel about her attending a Halloween shindig at the nearby Upsilon Theta Fraternity House. Tiffany has two 18-year old girlfriends who plan to fool the guys into letting her onto the premises. Not surprisingly, Brian forbids Tiffany to be there, and she turns her nose up at him in contempt. Indeed, the theme of “Boo! A Madea Halloween” is the father and daughter generational gap and the difficulty that a lack of discipline exerts on contemporary families. Brian is divorced, and he has no luck getting his ex-wife to intercede. Since Brian has an important meeting out of town, he rings up Madea. Uncle Joe (Tyler Perry), Aunt Bam (Cassi Davis), and Hattie (Patrice Lovely), accompany her to Brian’s house. Predictably, Tiffany doesn’t intend to miss the frat party, and she convinces Madea and company that a murderous clown haunt the house. Madea and Aunt Bam careen away in her Cadillac, but the vehicle breaks down in the woods. Madea and Bam freak out when ghouls surround them. Later, Madea wises up about the stunt Tiffany played on them. She dreams up her own devilish scheme, which involves faking the death of Tiffany’s friend, to scare the Hades out of Tiffany and the Upsilon Theta Fraternity.
Inadvertently enough, comedian Chris Rock inspired Madea’s latest ghoulish escapade. According to the Internet Movie Database, Perry saw Rock’s 2014 comedy “Top Five,” wherein Rock wandered into a cinema and noticed people lining up to watch an imaginary Madea movie called “Boo” that Rock generated for his own movie. Perry’s comedy represents Madea’s first venture into an entirely different genre. Now, if you’re dreading the horror content of “Boo! A Madea Halloween,” fear no more! Most of the chills are strictly atmospheric. You may experience a jolt or two when a clown materializes out of nowhere, and dozens of phantoms in a creepy forest may prompt you to catch your breath. Overall, nothing traumatic takes place in this largely funny, PG-13 rated, farce that never wears out its welcome at 103 minutes. Tyler Perry returns not only as Madea, but he also plays Uncle Joe Simmons and Brian. Joe’s health has taken a turn for the better since the crotchety old curmudgeon isn’t breathing with aid of an oxygen bottle, but he is still every bit as obnoxiously funny. One of Joe’s best jokes is pitched after about two-thirds of the audience had filed out of the theater. Yes, skits and bloopers proliferate during the end credits. Joe’s joke is: “So your doctor told you not to have sex. What did your dentist say?” This is a rather vulgar joke for a “Madea” comedy as well as lecherous old Joe. Nevertheless, you must understand that writer & director Tyler Perry manages quite a tightrope balancing feat where he takes both his religious beliefs and the questionable antics of certain characters without going overboard with either. Joe utters some ghetto profanity, including the politically incorrect N-word, in “Boo! A Madea Halloween,” and both Joe and Aunt Bam are shown smoking marijuana. The depiction of their drug use, however, is so mild that it could be mistaken for tobacco consumption. Compared with earlier “Madea” movies, “Boo! A Madea Halloween” lacks the depth of “Diary of a Mad Black Woman,” “Madea Goes to Jail,” “A Madea Christmas,” and “I Can Do Bad All by Myself.” Meantime, “Boo! A Madea Halloween” fits it with the lighter themed “Madea’s Family Reunion,” “Madea’s Big Happy Family,” and “Madea Witness Protection.” If you’re on Madea’s team–to borrow the “Twilight” phrase, “Boo! A Madea Halloween” will qualify definitely as a treat despite some tricks.