Writer, director, actor and producer Tyler Perry has made a name for himself in Hollywood – and rightfully so – as one of the few popular filmmakers intent on catering to, rather than ignoring, black audiences.
While he occasionally dabbles in soapy dramas, the multi-talented Perry is best known for his comedic work: his long-running “Madea” series, featuring Perry himself as the franchise’s titular grandma, is recognizable even to those who have never seen an installment.
Perry returns to his famously wacky creation in his latest movie, “Boo! A Madea Halloween,” a lazy production featuring little in the way of laughs. Viewing it is a decidedly painful experience: "Boo!,” is a dull, boring slog, dragging along for the majority of its runtime, delivering rote, puerile jokes with the nuance of a chainsaw.
“Boo!” takes place in a picturesque college town, opening on a fraternity preparing to throw its annual Halloween bash. Madea’s underage niece Tiffany (Diamond White) is invited to attend the party, but her nebbish father, Brian (also played by Perry), refuses to let her go, inciting an unoriginal battle of personalities as Tiffany runs off to the frat house despite Brian and Madea’s attempts to stop her.
Madea is aided in her quest to find Tiffany by a bevy of geriatric friends and relatives, including her brother Joe (yet another character played by Perry). Ornery, gruff and crass, Joe is responsible for the movie’s best moments: sitting in an armchair, his cane tucked between his legs, he utters obscene one-liners sure to generate laughter among audiences with an appreciation for dark humor.
But even Perry’s Joe, with his cane in one hand and a joint in the other, can’t save “Boo!” from itself. The film can’t overcome its own bad writing, bad pacing, poor acting and obnoxious score. Jokes highlighting the fact Madea is played by a man are transphobic, not merely silly; the cheap wisecracks will leave many squirming in their seats.
In a move presumably designed to attract a greater number of theatergoers, Perry cast several YouTube stars in important roles. These actors, many of whom command millions of online followers, fail to bring the level of acting required for a traditional film. As members of the fraternity, YouTube personalities Yousef Erakat and Mike Tornabene are clearly out of their league, while fellow internet celebrity Lexy Panterra fares only slightly better as Leah, a friend of Tiffany’s.
With any luck, “Boo!” will vanish from theaters quickly, allowing better films to take its place. A bad time all around, the movie offers few tricks or treats, and its nearly complete lack of truly funny material is scary. Forget “Nightmare on Elm Street” or “The Exorcist;” the prospect of sitting through this film is truly horrifying.