Tyler Perry's Madea's Family Reunion
Our heroine is one half of an attractive Atlanta couple, living in a luxurious home as the partner of a handsome professional. When they're out together, people seem to bask in their easy glow: They're such a lovely couple. But all isn't as it seems …
Wait. Wasn't that Diary of a Mad Black Woman?
Well, how about this: A hardworking young woman is wounded and alone because her mother neglects her, choosing instead to lavish attention on her sister. The young woman's inner and outer beauty goes unnoticed until the day a handsome "prince" comes along and …
And it would be easy to say that if you've seen Diary—or Cinderella—that you've seen Madea's Family Reunion. That's a fair critique, but it's not quite the whole story.
The film starts with the story of Lisa (Rochelle Aytes), who lives with fiancé Carlos (Blair Underwood) in a palatial 30th floor condo. It's clear almost from the beginning that, despite the boulder on her left hand and his romantic gestures, Lisa's rightfully terrified of Carlos, an investment banker and self-described "collector of fine things" who can't seem to stop battering his favorite one.
When Lisa confides in her mom, Victoria, the cunning, leonine mother of the bride (played tautly by Lynn Whitfield) shocks her daughter—and the audience—by telling her to grow up and be a good wife, because there are just some things a woman must endure to be comfortable. After all, she doesn't want to end up like her sister, does she?
That sister, Vanessa (Lisa Arrindell Anderson), works in an upscale bridal shop to support herself and her two young children. They're just getting by for now, living with Madea (Tyler Perry), who has been ordered by Judge Mablean Ephram to take in hardened foster child Nikki (Keke Palmer) or face prison time for removing the monitoring bracelet she picked up in Diary. Vanessa's prince, Frankie (Boris Kodjoe), arrives early, but must help Anderson's deeply emotive Vanessa face her fears about love.
Vanessa's story is actually the more interesting and conflicted of the two sisters, and she's the character who truly overcomes her difficulties and experiences a much-deserved fairytale ending. Aytes and Underwood portray a tense relationship, and Underwood and Whitfield reveal their own, different kind of tension in an unexpected plot twist. The film also includes exceptional, breathtaking moments featuring Cicely Tyson and Maya Angelou as matriarchs who seem to glow with wisdom, peace and joy. The always-fabulous Jenifer Lewis plays an ultra-serious wedding planner who designs an absolutely gorgeous wedding.
As always, Perry's Madea is fierce and funny, coming to the easy, no-holds-barred defense of those she loves, schooling the women on how to protect themselves (think breakfast and Al Green) and keeping mouthy kids in check. She's responsible for most of the film's hilarity, creating several gut-busting moments with her rapid wordplay, her even faster fists and her own dramatic interpretation of one of Sofia's monologues from The Color Purple. (Speaking of pop culture references, watch the scene from a famous episode of Good Times playing on the TV in the background as Madea irons and prepares to, uh, discipline Nikki).