Tyler Perry is both a brilliant businessman and at times, a cinematic talent. Unlike many directors who aspire to please everyone, Perry has perfected the art of selling his material to a specific demographic. His most successful character, Madea, arguably has the broadest appeal to general audiences. Mixing Madea with the supernatural was an intriguing idea on the surface. Unfortunately, little is actually paranormal in Boo! A Madea Halloween. Instead of running full force with the conceit, Perry’s own directorial limitations hinder the finished product. At times, it’s hysterical but the mixed message and poor technical filmmaking scare away a great horror-comedy.
As with many Tyler Perry productions, family tribulations are at the center of Boo! A Madea Halloween. Brian (Tyler Perry) has lost parental control over his teenage daughter, who is looking to attend a fraternity Halloween party. Madea, who is no stranger to dispersing tough love, is called upon by Brian to make sure she doesn’t sneak out. Given how pathetic this fraternity is, it’s difficult to see why she has such a drive to attend. At any rate, Madea crashes their party and the fraternity proceeds to exact revenge on a “paranormal” level.
The majority of Perry’s films have been adapted from his stage plays, all of which he either wrote and/or directed. This marks only the second Madea film that was not adapted from one of his plays. You wouldn’t know this given how amateurish the production levels are. Granted, this has been an issue that has plagued Perry’s directorial career but here it’s as noticeable as ever. The minimal set usage and the fact that Perry portrays multiple characters often makes the film feel like a one man production. Several lengthy scenes are shot in one location with an emphasis on the word “lengthy.” Despite plenty of laugh inducing moments and jokes, too many scenes are stretched to the point of either monotony or to the point of breakage.
The fraternity presence is one of the biggest missteps taken by the film. Most if not all of the brothers are played by YouTube stars. Whether this was intentional on the part of Perry or not, it comes across as a feeble attempt to cater to a younger demographic. The fraternity hi-jinks are close to being unbearable, with only a twerking grandmother providing any sort of salvageable redeeming value. Speaking of their scare tactics, they are surprisingly hit and miss. There are a couple of scenes involving scary clowns that actually manage to be slightly creepy. Perry actually constructs a couple of decent shots to create a sense of dread. The plausibility of their antics leaves a lot to be desired. One scene in particular involving a mirror was both humorous in its punchline and its sheer implausibility.
As per usual, the titular character garners the majority of the belly laughs. Her no nonsense attitude and uncompromising cruelty are on full display throughout. One scene in particular involving her heckling of a trick-or-treater was the one instance where the length felt warranted. Even her geriatric cohorts are tolerable and at times very amusing. With that said, they eventually become reduced to one- note caricatures. Aunt Bam (Cassi Davis) spends the brunt of the runtime flaunting her medicinal marijuana card. Hattie (Patrice Lovely) is just here to scream and speak in a grating voice. Joe (Tyler Perry) is both the funniest and most offensive character in the film. His detailed descriptions of the punishments he inflicted on his young son are sure to divide your sensibilities.
Speaking of parenting, the mixed messages delivered throughout create a drastic tonal shift in the third act. As we’ve seen in previous Madea films, she has no issue with speaking her mind about the virtues of beating children as discipline. The problem is that Brian’s daughter is such a brat past the point of believably. Granted, her father has no spine and allows her to walk all over him. Whether it’s his fault or not, an argument could be made that perhaps Madea’s tough love is warranted. It’s a lose/lose situation and the resolution has the subtlety of a Saturday morning PSA.
Despite the lack of cinematic flair, there are plenty of laughs within the film to justify a viewing. There’s even some topic cleverness that’s a cut above Perry’s usual work, such as the scary clowns. With that said, too much of the runtime feels padded out and too many scenes drag out. Given that the film was shot in a mere six days, one has to wonder what could have been with some more time in the development process. Be that as it may, Boo! A Madea Halloween is nowhere near a great film on a technical level. It is however, an occasional laugh riot if you know what you’re getting into.