The only thing new about A Madea Homecoming is a transatlantic comic crossover.
Tyler Perry has attempted several times to convince us that he is done portraying his most treasured invention, the gun-wielding, no-nonsense big mother Madea, but you know he’ll be sporting the glasses, grey wig, and floppy fat suit again. Madea, despite being a loudmouthed, foulmouthed caricature, a pistol-packing mammy, has become a national treasure, and Perry is well aware of this. In these dark and dreary times, her insane knowledge is one of the few things that can bring together Black and white audiences. (The finest Black Jeopardy comedy on Saturday Night Live addressed this.)
Perry goes drag for the 12th time—not including stage acts, TV appearances, and an animated film—for Netflix’s A Madea Homecoming, in which the eponymous great-grandmother gathers a slew of loved ones for yet another family-themed gathering. This time, it’s to honour her great-grandson, Tim (Brendan Black), who is also the valedictorian, graduating from college. Some recognisable personalities from the MCU (Madea Cinematic Universe) attend the party, including the rambunctious Aunt Bam (Cassi Davis-Patton), the loud-dressing family friend Leroy Brown (David Mann), and Madea’s rambunctious brother Joe (played, as always, by Perry).
In line with tradition, Homecoming introduces us to a new set of relatives, including Tim’s divorced mother, Laura (A Black Lady Sketch Show star Gabrielle Dennis), and her policeman sister, Ellie (Candace Maxwell), who appears to be primarily available to quarrel with Joe about police-related issues. Because this is a Tyler Perry film, the resident bald-headed brotha whom everyone despises is Tim’s father (Amani Atkinson), whom Tim invites despite the family’s hatred for him for doing Laura dirty. Of course, we need a light-skinned counterpoint, which arrives in the shape of Tim’s helpful buddy Davi (Isha Blaaker).
Davi is also surprised when his family from Ireland, cousin Cathy (Jennifer Gibney) and grandma Agnes Brown (Brendan O’Carroll), arrive to witness him receive his graduation. Brown, who has starred in a number of Irish films and television series, is essentially the Madea of the British Isles. So this transatlantic meeting of cross-dressing comedians is historic!
Homecoming, in typical Perry manner, combines the comical with the emotional. In the first half, Perry and his actors are totally engaged in ridiculous circumstances (a few of individuals consume “chocolate” from Madea’s handbag) and trash-talking altercations with each other. But, no matter how clumsily timed (Perry still directs films like he’s backstage directing gospel plays), these moments are easier to swallow than the second half’s kitchen-sink theatrics. Perry, never one to stop with the comedy, throws in some soap opera twists, with the discoveries of secrets even more ridiculous than any of the wacky funny stuff at the start.
Homecoming, although somewhat more woke than previous Madea chapters (the clan has an unexpected reaction when one of them publicly comes out), is simply more of the same. The characters are one-dimensional, and the performers depict them as such. Madea is still the focus of everyone’s attention. It should come as no surprise that the funniest scenes all revolve on her—for example, the flashback of her pursuing a man-stealing bestie, or the end credits, when she does her own version of an uber-concert diva’s film. Yes, it remains Madea’s universe. And we’ll have to keep living in it as long as Perry is willing to shoot shots in the air while wearing a muumuu.