Madea intros herself in this latest Tyler Perry piece by driving her car through the front of a drive thru, tossing some burgers at employees, and then speeding off.
Oh, you wanted something else? Well, there isn’t anything. The scene, like the vast majority of Big Happy Family, is totally pointless. Nothing connects, the direction static, the scenes impossibly staged, the dialogue rambling (even incomprehensible), the characters stock, and yet the whole thing is marketing brilliance. Go figure.
It takes over a half-hour for Happy Family to even enter a shaky groove, almost the entirety of the first act hung up on this meandering, exposition-laden doctor’s visit. Characters ramble on, setting up a loose, thinly crafted narrative guide as Shirley (Loretta Devine) tries to bring her family together for an announcement.
If Perry could get away with it, all the story could be trimmed, letting Madea own the screen for a bit while slapping people upside the head. Character appeal is a mystery, Perry’s make-up inadequate, inflections all over the place, and her sole developmental trait, mispronunciations, never consistent.
Nothing here settles on tone either, Sabrina (Teyana Taylor) a loud, obnoxious parody for Maury Povich (where this entire clan somehow ends up), Madea an irritating voice of reason, and everyone else somehow taking all of this seriously. They have their own problems though, Byron (Bow Wow) stuck between two woman, deep seeded family burdens breaking up Calvin’s (Isiah Mustafa) marriage, and Tammy (Natalie Desselle) can’t control her kids or her temper.
Despite introducing all of that, nothing is given closure. The kids are still brats, Calvin still has a mountainous journey in front of him, there’s a baby daddy still unidentified, Sabrina never receives her overdue comeuppance, Byron remains unemployed, and Tammy never solves her marital troubles. So, nothing has been accomplished, sort of like spending thousands of dollars to drive a car through a fake fast food restaurant just because.
If nothing else, Tyler Perry creates glistening hi-def material. Big Happy Family pours on the saturation, bringing with it intense, bold primaries, striking variety, and almost-better-than-real-life exteriors. There’s zero attempt to downplay the boldness here even as the drama reaches its peak. Every scene overloads itself with sugary goodness.
Lionsgate preserves a firm grain structure, enough to reproduce extravagant texture definition. Close-ups are spectacular, resolving every bit of available facial detail and fabric stitching. Exteriors render trees with flare and houses with sharpness that simply needs to be seen in motion. Focal softness dampens the fun, interrupting a flurry of Blu-ray goodness, and some smoothing is out of place too. The pathetic make-up on Perry doesn’t even try to replicate pores or other skin textures either.
Contrast is zippy, a filter diffusing the light for effect. Lights in the home are intentionally fuzzy, and characters will occasionally be surrounded by a bloom. Regardless, detail remains firm, the mid-range no joke here even when under the gun from attempted style. Black levels are extensive and deep, giving added heft to the already stocky depth on display.
A brief moment of aliasing on the speaker of the fast foot joint is the sole transfer imperfection here, an impressive bit of encoding all around. Even if the grain picks up, the encode remains transparent to the source, the bitrate high enough to keep everything precise.
As Madea slams her car through the glass window just past 14-minutes in, the DTS-HD 7.1 mix can finally show itself. It’s one of few moments where it can do so, the film an audio mixing dud with no chance for real success. The movie simply dies sonically for 45-minutes, the somewhat low dialogue a more obvious fault. Unless it’s panning to the side (and it rarely is), it’s merely drab.
Of course, this isn’t always a quiet film, Madea shouting inside an empty home at 1:03:30, the added speakers producing a boisterous, well placed surround echo. A church service becomes the dominating force on the disc, the vocals belting from the center with sparkling clarity and power. The music fires off into the rears to show off a little, and it does. It’s a sensational piece of precision fidelity.
Byreen: Baby Momma From Hell focuses on Teyana Taylor’s character for a little over seven minutes, more than is worth spending with it. Ties That Bind focus on the family unit and how they all come together, while you can put the pieces together yourself in The Madea Family Tree. Brown Calls Maury is the last bit, a short behind-the-scenes skit with David Mann, in-character, calling the show.