What to Watch Verdict
A change in storytelling structure can’t hide the superficial storyline and low key punching down.
Fertile ground for new storylines
After credits “Machella”
The comedy feels a touch dated
Social commentary feels too flippant
Narrative lacks cohesion and feels underdeveloped
Tyler Perry’s latest offering for Netflix, A Madea Homecoming, brings the family together for a celebration. For those familiar with the gruff grandma’s roots on stage will recognize both the structuring and the casual combativeness of this family dynamic. For newcomers, it’s an introduction to an established ensemble in a way that doesn’t feel like it is leaving them out.
The stage play structuring offers an immediately noticeable freshness to the Madea Universe, but it's quickly obvious not much else in Perry’s narrative structure has changed. As with previous outings, A Madea Homecoming's strength lies in the ensemble and turning family angst into storylines with a wink and a nod.
The primary storyline centers on Tim (Brandon Black) coming home to celebrate being valedictorian of his graduating class and sharing a secret with his family. Worried about how his family will receive his news, his best friend, Davi (Isha Blakker), comes with him as moral support. Perry uses inference and side-eye to imply his secret isn’t so secret early on, but Tim’s news swiftly becomes overshadowed by other family drama involving his divorced parents and a surprise visit from Davi’s great-aunt Agnes (Brendan O'Carroll).
This is Perry’s lane — family secrets coming out into the open in ways where the impacted family member is ultimately surrounded by support. In this outing the beats aren’t completely smooth but the dynamic prevails and shows improvement in how Perry represents issues surrounding sexuality within Black families.
However, while the jokes are still at each other’s expense and the banter swift, the social commentary lacks necessary nuance and depth. Perry uses his varied characters to insert real world issues through slick one liners and pithy opinions offered around a dinner table (or backyard gathering) with a large serving of off color jokes and sly side conversations to keep things from getting “too” serious.
But it's 2022, and when it comes to issues like theft of Black homes due to prohibitive property taxes (aka gentrification) and reallocation of tax dollars into programs that positively impact communities instead of police departments (aka defund the police), there’s just no room for flippancy or slanted messaging. Perry’s style smacks too much of stunted respectability politics and inserts the topics into the narrative in ways that “attack” the messenger and overly simplifies (or ignores) the message.
Ultimately, Madea’s 12th movie outing is nothing new and raises the question of whether coming out of retirement was a good call.
A Madea Homecoming is now streaming exclusively on Netflix.
Ro is a Rotten Tomatoes approved film/tv critic, writer and host on several of the MTR Network's podcasts. She's a member of the San Diego Film Critics Society and the Online Association of Female Film Critics. She's a former culture columnist for San Diego CityBeat (may it rest in peace) with a serious addiction to genre fiction, horror and documentaries. You can find her sharing movie and book recs and random thoughts, on her podcast I Talk Sh!t and Read or in her newsletter, Shelf Envy.