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Featured Blu-ray Review: Tyler Perry Collection

November 21st, 2010

Tyler Perry Collection - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon: Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Madea's Family Reunion, Why Did I Get Married?, The Family That Preys, and Madea Goes to Jail

For quite a while, most Tyler Perry films have been released on the home market, in standard definition with no Blu-ray release. This week, the studio is rectifying that situation and releasing his entire back catalog on High Definition. That's five titles, starting with...

Diary of a Mad Black Woman

The star of the movie is Kimberly Elise, who plays Helen McCarter, devoted wife to Charles, who is a less than devoted husband. Early in the movie, he packs up all her stuff, or to be more accurate, hires Orlando to pack up all her stuff and stick it in a U-Haul. At first she thinks its her husband giving her a new wardrobe, but he's kicking her out of the house and his mistress is moving in.

She heads off to her grandmother, Madea, to take stock in her life and figure out where to go from there. However, thanks to some sage advice from Madea, and the ill-timed use of a chainsaw, they end up in front of a judge and under house arrest, which is where the movie completely loses me and it was already on thin ice up to this point.

There are many problems with this movie, from the opening narration, which seemed heavy-handed, like it was tacked on at the last minute because the filmmakers couldn't figure out a natural way to set up the story. Tyler Perry's acting was so over-the-top that it bordered on self-parody, and this movie is filled with acting that ranged from bad to awful. Some of the blame has to go to the dialogue, a lot of the blame has to go to the dialogue, which alternates from ham-fisted / preachy to sappy / cheesy. The "humor" of the antics in the house were so broad that it simply didn't fit in with the more serious subject matter that was also being dealt with. To go from seeing Charles physically threaten Helen, to seeing Helen and Medea in jail with feathers from the couch Madea cut in half still in their hair... Nope. Not acceptable.

I kept watching hoping it would find a steady tone, but it never did.

(The best part in the movie is the bit part by Vickie Eng as the maid. For those who don't recognize the name, Vickie Eng played W, the kitchen tech master, on Good Eats. I want that show out on Blu-ray. Leave the show in standard definition and just use Blu-ray's storage / java capability to allow for easy searching for recipes.)

The Blu-ray

There are a ton of extras on the Blu-ray, starting with not one, but but two audio commentary tracks. There are several featurettes (making of featurette, featurette on Atlanta, featurette on Tyler Perry, etc.). There are outtakes, deleted scenes, and even several musical montages. However, while there were a lot of extras, including some that were new, most were rather thin.

The film's technical presentation was as expected, but that's not really a compliment. Details are not great, but better than the DVD. The colors were good, but not great, while the dialogue was clear, the rest of the audio was uncomplicated.

The Verdict

Diary of a Mad Black Woman earned terrible reviews when it first came out, and I can see why. The script bounces between serious drama to broad comedy so often, sometimes multiple times in one scene, that the viewer can never get comfortable, while the dialogue would be impossible to deliver convincingly for the most seasoned of actors. The Blu-ray is loaded with extras, but even if you are a fan, this is not the kind of film you need to see in High Definition to enjoy.

Madea's Family Reunion

Madea returns, this time the quardian of a foster kid, Nikki. The judge from the first movie makes her the guardian after Nikki was caught stealing and Madea was caught in violation of her house arrest. I mention this part of the plot first, even though it is a secondary plot point, as it clearly demonstrates that this film and reality are not even distantly related.

The main plot involves a woman, Lisa, who is about to marry Carlos, who is abusive and controlling, which is a plot point that is practically lifted from the first film. Her mother, Victoria is aware of the abuse, but wants her to get married anyway, because Carlos is rich. Meanwhile, her sister, Vanessa, is unmarried with two kids, from two different absent fathers. Despite being emotionally cut off, Vanessa gets involved with a kind bus driver. It's clear the mother prefers Lisa's decision to marry an abusive rich man over Vanessa's decision. However, we learn this family's level of dysfunction goes way beyond that.

If I were to sum up this movie in one sentence, it would be, and warning, there is a spoiler coming... A movie that involves the sexual abuse of a minor should not have a fart joke in it. That point alone makes this movie unwatchable, but it isn't the only problem found here. Every single problem that is in Diary of a Mad Black Woman is in Madea's Family Reunion. It has a script that moves between broad humor and dark drama without any skill. The dialogue is unnatural and preachy. The acting is quite weak, but I can't imagine most actors would be able to deliver these lines effectively. Finally, seeing Madea's violent attacks on Nikki as anything other than what they are, a crime against a child, is just too much to take.

The Blu-ray

The extras on the Blu-ray are mostly the same as the DVD: audio commentary track, making of featurette, featurette on the wedding scene, featurette on the music, etc. There are a trio of new featurettes on "Medea Mania", a look at the stage play the film is based on, and the make-up effects used to tun Tyler Perry into Medea. Plus there are more deleted scenes.

The video is a little better than before, while the audio is has the same clear dialogue, but uncomplicated mix.

The Verdict

No. Madea's Family Reunion is a hideous mix of tone with stories that shouldn't be in the same film and combines them with dialogue that most Oscar winning actors couldn't deliver in a believable way. The Blu-ray does have a few exclusives and the quality isn't bad for this type of movie, but it is still absolutely skippable.

Why Did I Get Married?

I already reviewed the sequel, so it's kind of funny that I'm only reviewing the original now. However, given the similarities between the two films, there's a huge amount of Deja Vu here.

As artless as ever, the film opens with Patricia, a writer, talking to a college class about her last book, "Why Did I Get Married?" and how it came to be. She, her husband, Gavin, and three other couples (Dianne & Terry, Sheila & Mike, and Angela & Marcus) travel somewhere for a week long vacation and talk about their marriages. And talk. And then talk some more.

There's really no plot to discuss, only a quartet of relationships and their various issues, very little of which I can discuss without entering spoiler territory. Angela is loud and confrontational, while Marcus is weak and doesn't stand up for himself enough. Dianne works too much and Terry feels neglected. Sheila and Mike have problems because, well, Mike's a prick (He brought another woman to a couple's retreat. I'm oversimplifying it for comedic effect, but you can tell right away that this relationship isn't going to last.)

I was not a fan of the sequel, but while this moive suffers from a lot of the same problems, it is definitely a better effort. The film does move between comedy and drama, but it does so in a more natural way than either of the two above Madea films did. The dialogue is also a lot more natural than his previous films, and strangely more natural than the sequel, while the cast delivers it in a much more believable way. The characters can be a little one-dimensional at times, while the relationship advice that is dished out is overly simplistic and the plot progresses in a very predictable manner.

It's certainly not a great movie, but it isn't terrible either.

The Blu-ray

Extras on the Blu-ray are a little weak compared to the previous Blu-rays with no audio commentary track. There are featurettes on the cast, the location, the music, etc. There's more than twice as many featurettes than the first film, but it is still light.

Like the previous films, this one doesn't shine in High Definition. The image is a little soft, details are sometimes lost in shadows, etc. Likewise, the dialogue is clear, but the audio mix is uncomplicated.

The Verdict

I watched these movies in chronological order, and as such, Why Did I Get Married? is the first that I can recommend, even if that recommendation is a little tepid. Ironically, while it is the best film, the extras are really light and unless you are a hardcore fan, a rental will likely be enough.

The Family That Preys Together

Another movie without Madea. Woo hoo!

The film starts at the wedding of Andrea and Chris. Andrea is complaining to her sister, Pam, about the dress, which was her mother's and everything else she can think of. Meanwhile, Chris is panicking while Ben, his best man, helps him get ready. The wedding is being held at the palatial mansion of Charlotte Cartwright, who is a lifetime friend of Alice Pratt, the mother of Andrea and Pam. Charlotte wasn't able to hold a big wedding for her son, William, because he eloped with Jillian. After the ceremony, William offers Chris a job at the Cartwright's family construction company, while he offers Andrea a job in the corporate office, once she graduates from University.

Flash forward four years, Pam is working in Alice's diner and they are getting by, sort of. She's taking care of her nephew for extra cash. Andrea is making a lot of money, more than Chris is, but Chris wants to start a construction company with Ben, who is less than enthusiastic about the idea. Ben, meanwhile, is getting married to Pam, who thinks he should have more ambition.

Over on the Cartwright's side of the story, William and Jillian also have a kid and he's doing really well at the company. He just signed a $500 million contract and hopes that this will result in his mother putting him in charge of the company. But it's not to be, as she hires Abby instead. This strains their mother / son relationship, which was already rocky. He's very ambitious, ambitious enough that he begins working to overthrow his mother from the company and take over. He is also not the kind of guy to let family values get in the way of what he wants, for instance, he's having an affair with Andrea.

At this point, I think I need a flowchart to figure it all out. Melodramatic barely begins to describe this soap opera monstrosity. I really liked seeing Alfre Woodard and Kathy Bates acting together, but that's really the only selling point for me. Most of the relationships were simply uninteresting after the second or third betrayal in the film, while by the end it seems most were worse off than at the beginning. For instance, Jillian finds out William is cheating on her, and has been for years, so she... blackmails him to end the affair? Is staying in a loveless marriage really a win for that character? And how William's attempt to take over the company failed was pure "deus ex machina". And don't get me started on Chris hitting Andrea and how that was treated in the movie.

The Blu-ray

Extras on the Blu-ray are limited to featurettes on the two leading ladies, filming in New Orleans, on the cast, etc. Plus there are some deleted scenes. That's not a lot, and none of it is new.

The film looks good in High Definition, but not spectacular; however, for a low-budget movie, this is to be expected. The detail level is fine, colors are good but not great, contrast is mostly what you would expect. The audio continues the trend of these films and the dialogue is clear, while the rest of the audio mix is mostly forgettable.

The Verdict

If the whole movie was just the parts with Alfre Woodard and Kathy Bates on that road trip, I might have given it a passing grade. Unfortunately, most of The Family That Preys Together is dedicated to the soap opera antics of their respective eldest children. Much of the film seems devoted to making sure the audience hates them as much as possible so we cheer their sudden but inevitable downfall. But it's too sudden and too illogical to be satisfying for me.

Madea Goes to Jail

When last we saw Madea, she was whipping an orphan girl with a belt. That's Snidely Whiplash level villainy, but strangely, that's not what gets her finally sent to jail. She gets sent to an anger management course after firing a machine gun in her house. And failing that course, she finally goes to jail. However, being sent to jail doesn't change her and she's as self-righteous as ever.

The other storyline in the movie has two D.A.s, Joshua and Linda, getting ready to get married. (Linda is the one handling Madea's case(s), which is how they are introduced in the movie.) Joshua is also set to handle a case involving a prostitute named Candy; however, just as the bail hearing is about to get underway, he recognizes her and has to recuse himself. Due to an incident from his past (it's a spoiler, so I won't get into it here) he feels partially responsible for what happened to her, so he tries to help her out. But, in doing so, he quickly alienates his fiancee, who in turns does something unethical to make sure Joshua and Candy never see each other again.

Yep, it's a Tyler Perry movie, so the hard-working career woman is the bad guy, again. At least that part of the movie has some dramatic heft to it, and the performances are very good. On the other hand, every time Madea is on the screen, it is painful to watch. It's like that character sucks the acting ability out of everyone around her and the result is that everyone, even actors that are hilarious in other roles (Sofia Vergara) give performances that made me cringe.

The Blu-ray

There are a half-a-dozen featurettes on the Blu-ray, but they never really rise above promotional fluff. The average length is barely more than four minutes, so that doesn't give a lot of time for depth. As for the technical specs, you can practically cut and paste them from the above releases and they would fit almost as well here. Granted, the film looks the best, but it is also the most recent and I believe the most expensive to make, so that makes sense. The audio mix is clear, but uncomplicated.

The Verdict

I'm not sure exactly how screwed up your life has to be before you lose the moral high ground to others, but Madea lost that well before she finally went to jail. That actually takes about a hour to happen in Madea Goes to Jail and while the other half of the movie is better, it is still not strong enough to warrant renting, unless you are a longtime Tyler Perry fan, in which case, my opinion was always going to be meaningless.

The Final Verdict

Of the five Tyler Perry Blu-rays coming out this week, only one of them, Why Did I Get Married?, had more that worked than didn't. And Blu-ray is the only one I would recommend picking up. None of them really shine on Blu-ray, nor are they the type of movie you need to see in High Definition to appreciate. On the other hand, if you are a hardcore fan of his work, $15 isn't a bad deal for a Blu-ray, especially the first three that have some Blu-ray exclusives.

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Filed under: Video Review, Madea Goes To Jail, Madea's Family Reunion, Why Did I Get Married?, Diary of a Mad Black Woman, The Family That Preys