While undeniably upping the ante in terms of sheer frivolity, this sixth installment is also grounded by a bittersweet storyline. At the point of departure, we find Madea’s niece, Shirley (Loretta Devine), being informed by her physician (Philip Anthony-Rodriguez) about a resurgence of the cancer that she’s been fighting for the past seven years.
Despite the urgent diagnosis, she declines further treatment, explaining that she’s simply too tired to do another round of chemotherapy. And with just weeks to live, the devoutly-religious Christian resigns to the will of the Lord.
What does still matter to her, however, is seeing her three children one last time to break the unfortunate news to them in person. The trouble is that all of them are currently consumed by bad relationships, each more in crisis than the next.
Daughter Tammy (Natalie Desselle) is married to a wimp (Rodney Perry) who lets their smart aleck sons (Stevie Wash, Jr. and Benjamin Aiken) walk all over her. Materialistic middle-child Kimberly (Shannon Kane) cares so much about her high-paying corporate job and the trappings of success that she ignores her toddler and takes her patient hubby (Isaiah Mustafa) for granted.
Elsewhere, 18 year-old Byron (Bow Wow), Shirley’s youngest, is being pressured by his gold digger of a girlfriend (Lauren London) to supplement his modest income by selling drugs on the street again. Adding to the recent-parolee’s angst is the baby-mama drama surrounding his hypercritical ex’s (Teyana Taylor) demands for more child support for their son.
Care to hazard a guess whose help Shirley enlists to slap some sense, both literally and figuratively, into this dysfunctional menagerie? Madea, of course, proceeds to browbeat her misbehaving extended family into shape in her own inimitable style which simply will not be ignored.
Along for the ride purely for comic relief are a couple of embarrassing relatives: Aunt Bam (Cassi Davis) and Mr. Brown (David Mann). The former is a feisty septuagenarian who smokes marijuana and flirts shamelessly (“Are you married?” “Are you straight?”) with younger men. The latter is a garishly-dressed master of the malapropism who somehow convincingly confuses the words “prostitute” with “prostate,” “carbon peroxide” with “carbon monoxide,” and even “colonoscopy” with “Coca Cola.” Such distracting buffoonery notwithstanding, Madea as usual miraculously manages to straighten everybody out, and right in the nick of time for the uplifting, closing credits Kodak moment.
Melodramatic tough love as meaningful group therapy!
Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for profanity, mature themes and drug use.
Running time: 106 Minutes
Distributor: Lionsgate Films
To see a trailer for Madea's Big Happy Family, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gW5ILfAaIXc