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A MADEA FAMILY FUNERAL: 1 ½ STARS. “like a sitcom and a soap opera had a baby.”

With the release of “A Madea Family Funeral” Tyler Perry is putting to rest his most famous character. The actor-director has been playing the elderly, sharp-tongued Mabel “Madea” Simmons on screen since 2005’s “Diary of a Mad Black Woman” but now says, “I just don’t want to be her age, playing her.”

Is the titular funeral for Madea? There will be no spoilers here but I can tell you Perry gives “Krump’s” era Eddie Murphy a run for this money, not just playing four characters in “A Madea Family Funeral,” but also writing, directing and producing. For all we know he also did the catering and best boy duties.

The set up for the action revolves around a family reunion in rural Georgia. The family, including Madea, Joe, Brian (all played by Perry) and Madea’s brother, a Vietnam war vet Heathrow (Perry again). When tragedy strikes the family must arrange a funeral (NO SPOILERS HERE!) “If I’m not in the will I tell you that funeral will be messed up,” says Joe. There’s more at stake than the money in the will, however. Personal secrets threaten to tear the once tight knit family apart.

If you are not already a fan of Madea’s rough-and-tumble humour “A Madea Family Funeral” is unlikely to convert you. Perry’s trademarked mix of slapstick, social commentary, soap opera melodrama and sentimentality is sloppily applied with scenes that recklessly veer from smiles to schmaltz at the speed of light.

The film’s funniest scene is also it’s most disturbing. On the way to the reunion Brian and family are pulled over by an over-enthusiastic cop whose escalating behaviour seems bound for a violent outcome uses humour to portray an all too familiar powder keg situation. It’s the movie’s only concession to current events. The rest feels as though Madea’s sitcom and a soap opera had a baby and named it “A Madea Family Funeral.”

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