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Madea's Family Reunion

Madea's Family Reunion is a 2006 American comedy-drama film and an adaptation of the stage production of the same name written by Tyler Perry. The film is a sequel to Diary of a Mad Black Woman. It was written, directed by, and starring Perry with the rest of the cast consisting of Blair Underwood, Lynn Whitfield, Boris Kodjoe, Henry Simmons, Lisa Arrindell Anderson, Maya Angelou, Rochelle Aytes, Jenifer Lewis, Tangi Miller, Keke Palmer, and Cicely Tyson. The film tells the story of Madea preparing for an upcoming family reunion while dealing with the dramas before and during it. It was released on February 24, 2006, nearly one year following its predecessor, Diary of a Mad Black Woman. The independent film was produced by Lionsgate.

Madea's Family Reunion

Victoria goes to Madea's house to fetch Lisa, only to end up in a passionate argument with Vanessa, who has become aware of Carlos's abuse and is eager to protect her sister. During the confrontation, Vanessa reveals a shocking secret to her younger sister: Victoria allowed her second husband, Lisa's father, to rape Vanessa in order to keep him in the marriage. Vanessa states that the sexual abuse occurred on a regular basis after that, which as a result, left her closed-off emotionally and unable to trust the men in her life, including Frankie. Even more shockingly, Victoria makes no attempt to deny Vanessa's accusations. Instead, she rationalizes her actions, telling her daughters that they would have been destitute if Lisa's father had left, and that after going through a previous divorce with Vanessa's father and working two jobs to support the family afterwards, she was tired of struggling and felt that she deserved better. She also reveals that her own mother, a prostitute and drug addict, regularly traded her for "ten dollars and a fix", essentially almost mirroring what she'd done with Vanessa and Lisa's father. Victoria then states that she would not allow Vanessa to ruin her happiness, and that she would not apologize for the choices she'd made. She then turns on a horrified Lisa, demanding that Lisa begin taking care of her financially as she made sure that Lisa had the best of everything while she was growing up. Vanessa then derides Victoria for constantly controlling her and Lisa as her punching bag and puppet, respectively, and how it has left her a mess; she vows not to let the pain and suffering her mother has subjected her to over the years hold her back any longer, and to break their family's tragic cycle by embracing the true love that she has found with Frankie and being a better mother to her own children. Victoria then leaves and later lies to Lisa, telling her that Carlos has agreed to counseling.

At the family reunion held at the home of 96-year-old Aunt Ruby (Georgia Allen), Vanessa and Victoria get into another verbal confrontation, which eventually turns into a physical fight after Victoria insults Vanessa regarding her relationship with Frankie. Then, Victoria screams at the top of her lungs, in front of the entire reunion, that she never loved Vanessa. Punches are thrown by both women. The fight is broken up when Aunt Ruby, Madea's daughter-in-law Myrtle (Cicely Tyson), and Ruby's daughter Aunt May (Maya Angelou) gather the family members to an old slave shack where the family's ancestors grew up. Ruby express disappointment at how the family has turned out. Myrtle gives a long speech, persuading them to act lovingly towards each other and themselves.

At the church, Lisa announces to the family members and other guests that Carlos had been beating her every day since they first got engaged and that the wedding is off. Victoria sarcastically states to Lisa that she feels sorry for her, but Madea states that everyone here feels sorry for Victoria and tells her to find her own life instead of continuing to live through Lisa. As Milay expresses disappointment that her work will now be wasted, Frankie then asks Vanessa to marry him. She says yes and they're married at the church instead.

Myrtle: Family reunions are about uniting the family, bringing together the young and old. Singing and dancing and thanking God, giving him the glory. Thanking him for getting us over. As we marched up the road this afternoon, what we saw were young men gambling, fighting, cussing. Women with no clothes on gyrating all over on this land. Do you see this shack. The man and woman we were born here gave birth to this generation. They were slaves. They worked this ground, but they bought it from the widow of the slave owner and that's the kind of blood we have running though our veins. That's the stock we are made of. What happened to us. What happened to us. Who are you. Do you know who you are. What happened to the pride and the dignity and the love and respect that we had for one another. Where did it go. And how, How do we get it back. I'ma tell you. Young Black men, take your place. We need you. Your sons and daughters need you. Did you understand what I just said. You were sold off and had no choice, yes but now it's time to stay. Take your place. Now. Starting now. Starting now. Young black women, you are more than your thighs and your hips. You are beautiful, strong, powerful. I want more from you. Take your place. I want every single one of you, young man, young woman, turn to the next person standing alongside of you. Grab them and hug them and tell them that you love 'em. Tell them, 'If you need anything, come to me.' 'If you need somebody to talk to, come to me.' 'I'll give you the shoulder, I'll give you the hug. I'll feed you, I'll clothe you if you need it. That's how you start from this moment. When you leave this reunion today, you take that with you.

An unstoppable force of nature, Madea may have finally taken on more than she can chew. She has just been court ordered to be in charge of NIKKI, a rebellious runaway, her nieces LISA and VANESSA are suffering relationship trouble, and through it all she has to organize her family reunion.

The soundtrack of Tyler Perry's Madea's Family Reunion is a pleasant blend of the old-school and the new and developing artists of contemporary R&B. The familiarity of the classic Al Green cut "Love and Happiness" and the O'Jays' "Family Reunion" evenly balances new selections from Kem, Johnny Gill (don't call it a comeback just yet), and Chaka Khan. Even without a movie surrounding the disc, Madea's Family Reunion could still stand alone as a strong compilation to play during family reunions or summer get-togethers.

Based upon Tyler Perry's acclaimed stage production, Madea's Family Reunion continues the adventures of Southern matriarch Madea. She has just been court ordered to be in charge of Nikki, a rebellious runaway, her nieces, Lisa and Vanessa, are suffering relationship trouble, and through it all, she has to organize her family reunion.

Once again Tyler Perry delivered a complex, profound, and poignant dialogue on love, resentment, betrayal, family, truth, and lies. So glad I saw this on a beautiful 35 millimeter print before the entire city shut down and everything fell apart.

Parents need to know that Tyler Perry's Madea's Family Reunion includes several scenes of violence, some dramatic and some comic. A man abuses his fiancée repeatedly, slapping, walloping, and shaking her, threatening to throw her out a window and throwing her to the floor. Madea threatens violence as punishment (she will "tear that ass up," for example), and in some scenes acts on her warning: She slaps a boy in the head and hits her foster child with a belt for skipping school; she advises her niece on revenge for her abuse, and eventually the niece throws hot grits on her abuser and then beats him with a frying pan. At the reunion, the family matriarchs chastise the younger generation for playing craps, arguing, and dancing provocatively (we see examples of all these bad behaviors). Characters refer to sexual activity and use slang ("get some"), including prostitution (one character says her mother was a "whore"). Characters drink beer, wine, and champagne, and refer to "weed," "the chronic," and "a fix."

The Madea franchise is premised on this excessive characterization, and audiences love the character. Still, she can be repetitive, and this film is unevenly paced and predictable. Alternately boisterous, syrupy, and endearing, the film bolsters Madea's belief in family strength-in-unity by community-building, history-remembering, spirit-reviving speeches by Maya Angelou and Cicely Tyson, who show up at the reunion and final scene's wedding.

Families can talk about the strong ties among family members in Madea's Family Reunion, and the power of forgiveness (why is it important that Vanessa forgives her mother, even though Victoria allowed her husband to abuse Vanessa sexually as a child?).

Tyler Perry took my advice.When I reviewed Tyler Perry's feature film debut, "Diary of a Mad Black Woman", I lamented Perry's decision to not direct the film himself. Based upon Perry's unique theatrical play of the same name, "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" was a woefully inadequate, histrionic and forced film that never quite achieved Perry's balance between laughs and authentic moral lessons.Despite my rather scathing C-, "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" was, indeed, financially successful and has afforded Perry the chance to try again with yet another original stage production, "Madea's Family Reunion". Many of Diary's problems remain present in Family Reunion, but this time around Perry didn't trust his vision to someone else and the film is a considerable improvement in just about every way over Perry's first.In "Madea's Family Reunion," we again meet Madea dealing with family issues in her unique funny yet tender way. As Madea, Perry again has that "Big Momma" look as he assumes the role of Madea and also plays two other family members.Perry's stage productions have been popular for years in the African-American community. They've toured for years around the country, mostly in mid-size auditoriums. The themes are universal, and nearly always along the same lines. Essentially, Perry writes morality lessons about God, family and self-empowerment. "Madea's Family Reunion" is no different.The film starts off by introducing us to Victoria (Rochelle Aytes), a young, attractive African-American female engaged to be married to a wealthy, attractive man (Blair Underwood) who, unbeknownst to anyone, is beating her on a nearly daily basis.Sounds like the makings of a tragedy, eh? Not quite. This is a Tyler Perry script, and Perry has this unique way of balancing the mundane, the insane and the profane like very few writers. It is precisely this balance that was lacking from Perry's first film, and it is this balance that exists much more of the time during "Madea's Family Reunion" that makes this film so much more impactful and entertaining.Along with the couple mentioned above, we have the rest of Madea's regulars, a new child the court has ordered to foster parent and Victoria's sister Lisa (Lisa Arrindell Anderson) who, in trying to bounce back from bad choices early in life, has turned her life over to God, become celibate and his focusing on raising her two children when she meets a bus driver (Boris Kodjoe) who isn't scared away when he finds out she's a single parent.Throw in a money-hungry mom (Lynn Whitfield) and various other family members gathering for a family reunion (including Cicely Tyson and Maya Angelou) and you have a film with a lot of laughs, a lot of love and moments of utter devastation.Tyler Perry is really a director of moments. It is both a strength and a weakness in his films. Perry captures little moments beautifully...looks, gestures, single words and even silence in a way that makes literally everything on screen mean something. Likewise, though, too often Perry's moments continue to become a little too preachy and, at times, even self-serving. I don't mind morality lessons, but I prefer to learn the lessons myself. I don't want or need characters telling me what lessons I am supposed to be learning.In the moments he creates, however, Perry creates a vision of life as it really is and he isn't afraid to say it's awful screwed up. As the family's eldest member, a 96-year-old aunt, arrives at the family reunion we see a few family members fighting over a game of craps, a few other young ladies barely dressed and dancing provocatively and generally a family that is divided into clicks. It is a powerful, sadly accurate, statement of how many families really work. Perry addresses it head on in a marvelous scene with Cicely Tyson that, unfortunately, becomes a tad preachy and diluted."Madea's Family Reunion" is ultimately a very simple film. Clearly targeted at the African-American community, it remains a valuable film for the community at large. It was hard, however, to not notice distinct cultural differences as I watched the film in a sold out auditorium filled with, easily, a 98% African-American audience. On more than one occasion, I found myself in tears only to realize the audience around me was laughing. To be honest, I still don't understand.The performances are strong across the board, including a disturbingly effective performance from Blair Underwood, a chilling performance by Lynn Whitfield and the usual strong performance from Boris Kodjoe. Perry seems different here than he did in "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" and I found myself having an easier time letting go of the obvious masculinity of his character. It is hard not to chuckle at the fact that both of Perry's films have been released shortly after "Big Momma's House" films. It seems like odd timing, but this film is considerably stronger than Lawrence's in "Big Momma's House 2."The script is generally strong, however, it does border often on being histrionic and again I'd have to say that too often Perry has a hard time getting his ego out of the way and just letting the story happen. A strong score aids the mood of the film, along with a nearly perfect soundtrack. Perry, in fact, also scored much of the film and wrote several of the songs performed by others.The inevitable curse of a simple film is that the ending itself is quite predictable. Additionally, while I admire Perry's addressing of domestic violence issues it was, at times, played a bit too much for laughs and, ultimately, the implication that revenge equals empowerment is a bit reckless and could, quite easily, endanger a woman in a real life situation.Yet, I can't deny it. The spirit of Tyler Perry's script and his dedication to preaching peace, love and understanding won me over much of the time during "Madea's Family Reunion." Unlike "Diary of a Mad Black Woman," I found this film to be well-paced with a solid, controlled performance by Perry. While I didn't always appreciate how Perry resolved issues, I love a film that teaches its audience to end domestic violence, be there for one another, believe in oneself and to not stop believing in love."Madea's Family Reunion" is simple yet effective, funny yet meaningful. Judging by the three sold-out performances at the theatre I attended, it looks like we may well be moving toward yet another Tyler Perry project in the future. Here's hoping he continues maturing as a director, growing as an actor and so authentically tapping into the African-American culture.One moderate disclaimer must be noted quite strongly...those who have experienced domestic violence may find some of the scenes in this film particularly disturbing. If you do, in fact, attend "Madea's Family Reunion" I suggest you not do so alone.This disclaimer aside, "Madea's Family Reunion" comes closer to manifesting the stage magic of Perry's shows on the big screen. Frequently funny, often insightful and occasionally painfully, "Madea's Family Reunion" is one family reunion worth attending. 041b061a72

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