Is there room for Mabel Simmons’ straight-talking truths around the holidays?
“Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas” proves that the answer is: Honey, who else do you expect to open eyes, ears and, eventually, hearts as a bunch of thrown-together folks feel each other out way down there in rural Alabama.
Perry once again dons the wig, big clothes and huge persona of Madea, the woman who’s been telling America how it is on the big screen since Perry’s 2005 film “Diary of a Mad Black Woman.” This time around, Aunt Madea takes to the road with her niece, Eileen, the close-minded mother of earnest Lacey. Anna Maria Horsford is excellent as the tyrant spinning a supposedly well-meaning blanket of fear over her daughter, portrayed quite nicely by Tika Sumpter.
Entering the picture is Lacey’s high school boyfriend (JR Lemon), recently divorced from his wife and hopeful of being the hero by brokering a sponsorship deal to save the annual Christmas Jubilee at the rural school where Lacey teaches. Eileen asks Madea to tag along to make it three in his car on the trip from Atlanta.
When they arrive at the farmhouse where Lacey lives with a white man, Conner, the fibs balloon and a sticky situation is made worse when Conner’s parents, played with equal parts heart and ha-ha by Larry the Cable Guy and Kathy Najimi, also arrive with their suitcases to spend the important holiday.
Mom Eileen is a real pip as a proud African-American woman who still casts a wary eye at certain white people. Conner (played with almost-endless sensitivity by Eric Lively) and his parents try to make nice. Lacey is too afraid to address the oh-mother problem, even though she’s fearless in her protection of her class and smart enough to mastermind sly school strategies. Madea makes a wise referee, spouting malapropisms that somehow make perfect sense.
In this day and age, why can’t Tyler Perry and Larry the Cable Guy thrive in the same movie?
So it stands to follow that somehow, some way, something will happen to open all these characters’ eyes to the fact that they are indeed all in this thing together.