Tyler Perry’s Boo: A Madea Halloween (2016)
Written & Directed by Tyler Perry
In January 2020, while Tyler Perry was on his Madea Farewell Tour stage play performances, he talked very openly about his relationship with the character. When asked if he would miss playing Madea, Perry responded flatly, “Nope.” He went on to explain he never enjoyed playing Madea and that the costume & wig were uncomfortable. Perry would connect the success he saw Eddie Murphy having by assuming the roles of multiple characters and decided to lean into that too. Perry would admit that playing Madea created a $2 billion media empire but still hated the character. In June 2021, Perry & Netflix announced Madea would be returning to a film on their streaming platform.
Boo is a furious film. There was a three-year gap between A Madea Christmas and this feature, the longest gap between films in the Madeaverse. The film is centered on Tiffany Simmons (Diamond White), the teenage daughter of Brian (Perry). Tiffany and her friends plan to sneak out to attend a Halloween party at a nearby fraternity house, but her father is determined to stop this. While Brian cannot stay at home to keep an eye on his daughter, he knows just who can. Madea (also Perry), her brother Joe (Perry, again), Aunt Bam (Cassi Davis), and Hattie (Patrice Lovely) are called in to monitor the house. Tiffany is no dummy and goes about spinning a story of murder and haunting in her old Georgia home that sends the old folks into a tizzy.
The first thing you’ll notice while watching Boo is that Perry has become even lazier in his film production. It was always apparent the filmmaker showed little interest in the technical aspects of movies. In some of his earlier movies, the boom mikes stopped working, so we got audio from the onboard camera mics. There were shots clearly out of focus. Editing was always a mixed bag, but as time went there seemed to be some competency coming into the work. Boo showcases Perry’s abandonment of that goal, with the four main comedic characters spending most of the movie sitting on couches in a living room. I would argue that 70% of the film takes place in this single living room with four cameras, just cutting back and forth between the elders as they quip.
There is a scene in this movie that a thesis could be written about; it is one of the angriest, hateful pieces of cinema I have ever witnessed. When the four seniors arrive, Brian explains why he needs them to keep an eye on Tiffany. They voice disapproval of what they perceive to be “weak parenting.” This leads to Joe and Madea sharing stories about how they brutally abused Brian as a child. Madea tries to justify her abuse of Brian by saying she always took him to the hospital after beating him. Joe is where the real sinister thoughts of the film emerge as he tells a story of throwing Brian off the roof of his house and breaking his legs. This is also the first Madea film where the N-word is uttered by Perry as Joe with such venom in his voice when he says it. And this sequence is meant to be read as comedy.
Perry’s writing of people showcases a seeming disconnect with how humans speak and behave. The frat boys are one significant example of this. The teenage girls make it to the party, and it’s clear these men don’t know they have children in their midst. Once they become aware these are 17-year-old girls, they start freaking out and making jokes about being arrested for sexually assaulting minors. They also tell the girls they have to leave. If your worldview is derived from poorly written sitcoms, this might play out as believable, but it’s more an effort to whitewash an institution with a history of sexual abuse.
This is why Madea’s shortsighted moralizing plays as so phony. Perry has to argue from a reactionary perspective about morality and the “proper behavior of ladies,” which leads him to create softened threats so he doesn’t have to address the agency of men in these situations. The girls are shortsighted and driven by hormones, while the frat bros, yes, loud & crass, are actually very well-meaning young men that don’t want to sexually violate a young woman. The only person Perry feels interested in tearing apart here is his own stand-in Brian.
Brian is not only mocked for…I guess being the victim of child abuse(!?), he is also weak because his wife cheated on him. That’s another lazy point in the film in that it disregards Brian’s previously established wife from Diary of a Mad Black Woman, who was a drug addict. Now, Brian’s wife is a successful professional married to a new man with whom she cheated on Brian. There’s no big moral bombshell as in previous pictures; I recall Big Happy Family and its uncle’s rape reveal. Instead, Boo is an insane, morally questionable descent into Perry’s profound anger about being this character and how much he seems to hate making these movies.
We still have two movies to go, and I guarantee you, they get angrier and move into homophobia/transphobia. While this is not a “fun” watch, it is pretty eye-opening. This is one of the highest-grossing Madea films ever made, a budget of $20 million turned into $75 million in returns. Despite how upsetting and frankly lazy the picture is, it appealed to a considerably large number of people, which should be deeply unsettling. It’s also a call for more, better-made Black films instead of relying on Tyler Perry to carry the industry.