Tyler Perry's 'Boo: A Madea Halloween' Is Scary Good

By removing most of the "Go with God" material, the faith-based filmmaker has created his most consistent mainstream comedy to date.

Boo! A Madea Halloween

Director: Tyler Perry
Cast: Tyler Perry, Cassi Davis, Patrice Lovely, Liza Koshy, Diamond White, Lexy Panterra
Rated: PG-13
Studio: Lionsgate
Year: 2016
US date: 2016-10-21 (General release)
UK date: 2016-10-21 (General release)

There's a unique conundrum that comes with being a Tyler Perry fan. His plays are a revelatory combination of old school tent revivals and carefully crafted melodrama. His plots are poised precariously along the limited lines of cliche and stereotype, but the inclusion of great gospel lite music and a certain drag voice of common sense propels them forward.

His movies, on the other hand, cater to an often uncertain demographic. Perry has always been a populist, it's just that he serves an audience that, before, was barely considered by Hollywood. Thanks to his success, doors have been open for other faith based productions. But Perry is smarter than the whole "go with God" crowd. He combines chaos, comedy, and Christianity into a potent stew that leaves the included satisfied and the excluded sour.

So what do we make of a movie like Boo! A Madea Halloween. Apparently the direct result of an in-joke made by Chris Rock in his compelling, autobiographical Top Five, this is another yet another example of Perry's preaching to the choir. But this time out, he picks a different songbook, one that shuttles the "Men are Pigs, Women are Suffering Saviors" themes off to the side, leaving more room for the mischief that a man in a dress can get up to.

The plot here is relatively simple. Madea (Perry, perfect as ever) is put in charge of her son Brian Simmons' (Perry again), errant kids, including a teenage daughter named Tiffany (Diamond White) who is desperate to attend a party being thrown by a frat house just around the corner. Along with constant cronies Aunt Bam (Cassie Davis), Hattie Mae (Patrice Love) and Uncle Joe (Perry), they try to keep the eager adolescent in check. Naturally, she breaks out, attends the gala, gets in trouble, and as payback for ruining their good time, the frat dress as zombies and terrorize Madea.

From there, it's a string of strong to silly jokes that add up to a hilarious good time. But there's something missing in Boo! A Madea Halloween that many in her fan base might find off putting. Instead of beating viewers over the head with Bible based solutions and scripture laced screeds, the Church plays a minor role here. Instead, Perry is playing to his strengths, moving even further into the mainstream. In fact, you could legitimately envision Martin Lawrence in a ratty housecoat and wig reprising one of his infamous roles in A Big Mamma Halloween.

All drag pros and cons aside, Perry has found the perfect voice for Madea, the embodiment of old school maternal care. From her "do as I say, not as I do" decision making to the pop culture malapropisms, she's a stitch. Even the worst punchlines come to life in Perry's delivery, and Madea makes a case for the filmmaker to continue on past his already limited cinematic "sell by" date. He may not achieve a level of comic genius of, say, a Jerry Lewis, but there's still plenty of pop left in this broadly drawn battle axe.

Where Perry remains lacking is in his skill behind the lens. He's just not a very good director. He's proficient, and he manages to keep things in frame and in focus, but that doesn't lend itself to visionary work. Anyone who has seen his theater work knows he has an eye for unique set design and actor movement. On film, that all falls flat. We get lifeless looks at lively material, the performers doing their best while the filmmaking lets them down. Even in moments that are meant to be frantic, like the frat's zombie attack on Madea and the gang, nothing pops. It all just lays there.

But then everyone's favorite gun-toting, pot-smoking Granny turns up the juice, and that makes Boo! A Madea Halloween a whole lot of fun. If you've ever suffered through a Perry film and said "I could do without all the preaching and teaching", then you are in for a welcome surprise. This may be as close to your typical Tinseltown laugher that this man ever gets. It's like the recent Seth Rogen romp Neighbors divested of the "R" rating and given a race-specific sheen.

With his growing TV empire and work outside of his own films (Gone Girl, Alex Cross), Perry isn't going away anytime soon. On the other hand, he needs to realize that God can only get you so far at the box office. Boo! A Madea Halloween is a fine step in the direction of ditching all the contrivance and soap operatics for a more grounded, genial experience. As the main character, the Jack-Of-All-Artistic-Trades creates something fun. It's a style and approach he should continue to explore.







Zadie Smith's 'Intimations' Essays Pandemic With Erudite Wit and Compassion

Zadie Smith's Intimations is an essay collection of gleaming, wry, and crisp prose that wears its erudition lightly but takes flight on both everyday and lofty matters.


Phil Elverum Sings His Memoir on 'Microphones in 2020'

On his first studio album under the Microphones moniker since 2003, Phil Elverum shows he has been recording the same song since he was a teenager in the mid-1990s. Microphones in 2020 might be his apex as a songwriter.


Washed Out's 'Purple Noon' Supplies Reassurance and Comfort

Washed Out's Purple Noon makes an argument against cynicism simply by existing and sounding as good as it does.


'Eight Gates' Is Jason Molina's Stark, Haunting, Posthumous Artistic Statement

The ten songs on Eight Gates from the late Jason Molina are fascinating, despite – or perhaps because of – their raw, unfinished feel.


Apocalypse '45 Uses Gloriously Restored Footage to Reveal the Ugliest Side of Our Nature

Erik Nelson's gorgeously restored Pacific War color footage in Apocalypse '45 makes a dramatic backdrop for his revealing interviews with veterans who survived the brutality of "a war without mercy".


12 Brilliant Recent Jazz Albums That Shouldn't Be Missed

There is so much wonderful creative music these days that even an apartment-bound critic misses too much of it. Here is jazz from the last 18 months that shouldn't be missed.


Blues Legend Bobby Rush Reinvigorates the Classic "Dust My Broom" (premiere)

Still going strong at 86, blues legend Bobby Rush presents "Dust My Broom" from an upcoming salute to Mississippi blues history, Rawer Than Raw, rendered in his inimitable style.


Folk Rock's the Brevet Give a Glimmer of Hope With "Blue Coast" (premiere)

Dreamy bits of sunshine find their way through the clouds of dreams dashed and lives on the brink of despair on "Blue Coast" from soulful rockers the Brevet.


Michael McArthur's "How to Fall in Love" Isn't a Roadmap (premiere)

In tune with classic 1970s folk, Michael McArthur weaves a spellbinding tale of personal growth and hope for the future with "How to Fall in Love".


Greta Gerwig's Adaptation of Loneliness in Louisa May Alcott's 'Little Women'

Greta Gerwig's film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's classic novel Little Women strays from the dominating theme of existential loneliness.


The Band's Discontented Third LP, 1970's 'Stage Fright', Represented a World Braving Calamity

Released 50 years ago this month, the Band's Stage Fright remains a marker of cultural unrest not yet remedied.


Natalie Schlabs Starts Living the Lifetime Dream With "That Early Love" (premiere + interview)

Unleashing the power of love with a new single and music video premiere, Natalie Schlabs is hoping to spread the word while letting her striking voice be heard ahead of Don't Look Too Close, the full-length album she will release in October.


Rufus Wainwright Makes a Welcome Return to Pop with 'Unfollow the Rules'

Rufus Wainwright has done Judy Garland, Shakespeare, and opera, so now it's time for Rufus to rediscover Rufus on Unfollow the Rules.


Jazz's Denny Zeitlin and Trio Get Adventurous on 'Live at Mezzrow'

West Coast pianist Denny Zeitlin creates a classic and adventurous live set with his long-standing trio featuring Buster Williams and Matt Wilson on Live at Mezzrow.


The Inescapable Violence in Netflix's I'm No Longer Here (Ya no estoy aqui)

Fernando Frías de la Parra's I'm No Longer Here (Ya no estoy aqui) is part of a growing body of Latin American social realist films that show how creativity can serve a means of survival in tough circumstances.


Arlo McKinley's Confessional Country/Folk Is Superb on 'Die Midwestern'

Country/folk singer-songwriter Arlo McKinley's debut Die Midwestern marries painful honesty with solid melodies and strong arrangements.


Viserra Combine Guitar Heroics and Female Vocals on 'Siren Star'

If you ever thought 2000s hard rock needed more guitar leads and solos, Viserra have you covered with Siren Star.


Ryan Hamilton & The Harlequin Ghosts Honor Their Favorite Songs With "Oh No" (premiere)

Ryan Hamilton's "Oh No" features guest vocals from Kay Hanley of Letters to Cleo, and appears on Nowhere to Go But Everywhere out 18 September.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.