I think I just saw a movie. Then again, I’m not sure if I should call it a movie. The more the minutes lingered, “Boo! A Madea Halloween” felt more like an out of body experience desperate to find at least some humor. One joke to hang onto despite a soulless effort to make use of the holiday. Tyler Perry stated in interviews he’s not a fan of ghosts, witches or anything creepy crawly. A shame as the trailers advertise scenes of everyone’s favorite granny punching clowns and running away from zombies. If one thinks this will be a big “monster mash,” you will be disappointed to find its really a lame pumpkin smash.
The main plot relies on Brian Simmons (Tyler Perry) and his inability to control his bratty daughter. He crushes his daughter’s plan to go out and party at a nearby fraternity by having Madea watch her. As expected, Brown’s daughter sneaks out and the granny is not happy. Armed with her two friends and brother, Madea seeks justice in a plot that really goes nowhere. I shouldn’t be surprised as that tends to happen in most of these movies. There seems to be a spark of an idea but somehow gets lost in a sea of meandering subplots and running jokes.
First, we get the fraternity and their big Halloween bash as every teen acts like a stereotype from Animal House or a watered down gang that boozes on beer and sex. While we don’t see any beer glasses touch lips, the writing for these characters gets irradiating with a one sided view on the modern teenager. The kind who is constantly saying a bunch of suffer talk in a masculine way, but acts all tough. The only time the fraternity got interesting is when they try to wise up (say if, someone under-aged appears at their party) and take responsibility. But even then, this action would immediately backfire when they decide to do something completely irresponsible like intense pranking.
This leads into one of the biggest problems of the whole movie. It seems to be really centered on the idea that a prank gone too far can have serious consequences. And honestly, I’m ok with stuff like that. The way its being handled is what I can’t tolerate. Without spoiling too much, certain characters will go out of their way to do these elaborate pranks against each other wither it be staging a zombie apocalypse or the death of a main character. I understand the morale value behind this subplot, but it wears the welcome too much. It even trails into an unnecessary 15 minutes near the end which completely contradicts the “other” main message.
And that is the other big problem I have which is the main theme of parenting. Most of the Madea movies center on a certain theme from second chances to dysfunctional families. “Madea Halloween” tries to examine the idea of what is good parenting and bad parenting. But it gets a set of mixed messages when you have jokes about how to beat a child up wrapped around a climax when Brian finally gets the idea of how to discipline your kid. I’m all for the idea of show and even discussing the limits of child discipline. Yet everything goes back and forth on key jokes like Brian talking to Uncle Joe about a time when Joe tossed him off the roof to learn a lesson. Material like this is not funny and bogs down the message to the point it will feel like a beating to the head or exhaust itself.
I can’t remember a single character I liked from this movie. They were all annoying, irradiating and even some that got under my skin a lot. Madea was never funny or interesting to me. I get the reason why people love this character, but I always find her to be too mean spirited at times. And it doesn’t help when you have her force out this morale message of kids respecting parents when immediately afterwards has a entire sequence when she does something mean to others. I know the purpose why she does (I can’t say without spoiling), but it sort of goes against those moments when the character has a heartfelt morale to say.
As for the others, I really couldn’t care less. Uncle Joe is the perverted senior that’s always trying to say some kind of catchphrase or dirty joke. Aunt Bam has this running gag about being able to legal smoke marijuana which gets old. Hattie is the comic relief with the annoying voice that keeps mispronouncing words just for a gag. The biggest offender I found was really Brian and his daughter. I get they are trying to build this arc over how he can’t manage to connect or even maintain control of his daughter. But when we get to their moment when they recoup, it feels manipulated after a slew of exposition on why Brian is inept over taking charge. And for someone his age, Brian should at least be able to know his daughter this well.
There were only two times I actually did snicker during “A Madea Halloween.” Once at a gag when Bam steals candy from kids and a comment from Uncle Joe about Madea having a prostate. Those jokes only worked because of the delivery of the humor and the ideas behind these two jokes. Everything else I recall is material about being harsh on child discipline and fraternity boys learning responsibility the hard way. There is nothing else I can remember that was remotely investing outside of the advanced technical work giving us the ability to see three Tyler Perry characters in one shot. I know there is an audience for Madea, but I’m not one of them.
“Boo! A Madea Halloween” left me feeling empty and dumb down to the point my mind felt numb. The morale is mixed between cynical humor and taking responsibility to the point it feels kinda calculated. Tyler Perry said his movies were meant for entertainment and not to be thought too heavily on. My criticism to that is when you force a morale like that amidst jokes of spanking and child beating, there will be mixed signals. There are better things to watch this Halloween season and this movie is no treat. I wouldn’t even recommend a single frame to anyone. The only positive about this whole thing was that I saw this Madea movie at my local cinema on Bargain Tuesday for $6. Because it would have been a whole lot scarier if I paid to see this for full admission price.
Death is not funny. Or at least that’s what “A Million Ways to Die in the West” is trying to counter argue. Let me start by saying that I love dark humor and not a prude that thinks all comedy should be slapstick and pies. I’m welcome to all kinds of comedy be it stupid or sophisticated. But the bottom line is that it has be funny or at least chuckle worthy. I’d go into a history lecture on how comedy must have weight and support to give it a solid punchline but I feel this unfunny, mean-spirited and bloated Seth MacFarlane romp is a fitting example of how not to do a comedy. I went into this movie thinking it wasn’t going to be that bad, however I found myself feeling it was worse than I originally thought it would turn out to be.
Seth not only writes and directs but also stars as the protagonist Albert Stark who lives in a dust hole of a western town that is plagued with cowboy cut-outs, sleazy prostitutes and people dying at the drop of a hat. He’s also a cowardly sheep farmer that has no control over his rampant flock as much as his courage when it comes to a pistol duel. On top of that, his girlfriend thinks he’s such a wimp to the point she runs off with Foy (a twisted mustached Neil Patrick Harris.) To win back her heart, he challenges Foy to a duel and with the help of another gunslinger named Anna (Charlize Theron) Albert trains as good as he can to see he can crack a good shot.
It sounds fine at first until you start to add on the other subplots and story lines that could have been so easily trimmed out but make “Million Ways” unnecessarily bloated. Giovanni Ribisi plays a friend of Albert’s that has a prostitute for a girlfriend (Sarah Silverman) which amounts to nothing but a running joke about how he is a virgin and yet his girl is serving hard customers with her own body. Even unneeded is Liam Neeson as an infamous outlaw that feels more like an extended cameo than as opposed to an actual villain. Apparently, he is Anna’s husband and when he finds out she’s been around Albert, he doesn’t hold back and plans to tear the town to shreds until the sheep header challenges him. In fact, if you cut all of Liam’s scenes you wouldn’t be missing much. When it reaches the 90 minute mark, you think its over but no! They have to add on this pointless plot which didn’t have much of a progression.
The biggest problem I feel with this movie is the character of Albert. He’s annoying and not that interesting. In fact, if you just animated Brain the dog from Family Guy, there wouldn’t be much of a difference between the two characters as they share similar traits. They are losers trying to make out of a dull environment while point out constantly to their friends what is bad about the place they are living in. When Seth was on screen, I didn’t see another character. I kept seeing Brian Griffin. At least Ted worked because Seth’s performance was a voice and the technical work of bring a foul-mouthed teddy bear to live meshed well. Here, he can’t carry the torch of being a leading man and it shows. Once in a while, there can be a nice scene between him and Charlize Theron, but its very fluffed in my opinion. I can see someone like Steve Buscemi or Chris Pine doing the role of a weaselly wimp better but having Seth be the straight man just feels self-absorbed to me.
But hey, maybe the jokes can clear that up? After all, humor is a driving force in comedy as plot is cared little of. That would be the case if there were some actual jokes here. The entire theme of “Million Ways” is that living in the west sucks and that’s all it amounts to. I understand that but the way its delivering these jokes make it unfunny. Characters keep explaining the punchline instead of letting us laugh while they keep repeating previous gags on a repetitive nature. One example is the joke where a man gets his head crushed by a block of ice. The gory execution along makes it horrible but then we cut to the man’s funeral where the reverend mentions how they will fondly have icy drinks in his memory. To which Albert says, “I can’t believe they are using the ice that killed him.” We get the punchline. You don’t have to go out and explain the joke to us. We are not little children. This makes Dumb and Dumber To look sophisticated because at least the Farrelly Brothers knew when to limit themselves. Even a tasteless shooting gallery joke at the fair with cartoon images of African Americans as the targets cement the desperation here. And as more bodies drop at the tip of a hat, so does our sense of humor. Bystanders fall dead, a corpse gets eaten by wolves and patrons get shot at so frequently that it becomes borderline unbarring to sit through.
I only remember three good jokes that I legitimately laughed at and those three I’m taking with me. One is a joke about currency in the West as a one dollar bill was different back then and two flashback scenes that had a decent payoff. One of them involving a Gilbert Gottfried cameo where he plays Abraham Lincoln that I admit got a good laugh out of me. Compared to the surreal idea of Gilbert being a log cabin President, other cameos like Christopher Lloyd reprising his Doc Brown feel really forced and pointless. I remember Brad Jones and a friend of his talking about this movie in a vlog and mentioning how it would have been funnier if the events of Back to the Future Part III unfolded in this movie. Heck, there’s even a scene when Seth’s character gets away on a train from the bad guys. Wouldn’t it be funnier if it cut to an image of the DeLorean in front of the train right after Liam says “That train will be back” seeing we know what happened to the train at the end of BTTF 3? And that’s just an idea of how much potential is lost here.
My only argument is that Seth is trying to do what Blazing Saddles did for Westerns. But at least Mel Brooks avoided repetition of saying “living in the west sucks” by giving us a commentary on racism and having characters with a dimension that feel like they were taken out of a western. In a way, “Million Ways” tries to be something akin but tries to do a modern spin which feels out of place. Blazing Saddles was funnier in comparison because it took the period piece setting and really satirized how problematic it was compared to our modern life. Seth’s film is just one joke that is said again and again to the point you would rather dip your head in a bucket of piranhas or spontaneously burst into flames. Because at least that is far more interesting than this dull gulch desert of a picture.