Tyler Perry wants us to know that even Madea celebrates Christmas—not just the holidays. She's big. She's bad. She's crass. She's crude. But she'll stick up for the real reason for the season without so much as a Santa snort.
Madea's trying her obnoxious best to make a little money as Christmas approaches by working as a Santa saleswoman/man/person at a fancy department store when she shows up onscreen this time round. But all she manages to do is offend the customers and appall her boss. So it's just as well that her niece, Eileen, asks her to accompany her on a little family visit. Maybe she'll do less damage surrounded by loved ones instead of strangers.
Don't count on it. When Madea and Eileen arrive—unannounced—at Eileen's daughter's farm, there's more than a little mischief waiting for the mad, mad, mad, mad Madea to stick her big nose into. Great niece Lacey, you see, has gotten herself married—to a white man!—without telling her mom. And then hubby Connor's parents show up for the festivities, too. (Is Chevy Chase lurking behind a wall of Christmas lights?)
Madea's going to need some witness protection again before this brouhaha blows over. Suffice it to say this is not one big happy family.
The acceptance of interracial marriage is a big theme here, with Lacey and Connor's union becoming a focal point. Eileen has made it crystal clear to her daughter over the years that only a black man is an acceptable life partner. Lacey rejects that view, obviously, when she elopes with Connor, but she's been too afraid of her mother's disapproval to tell her about it. So it's through Madea's brash bluntness and Connor's parents' winsome amiability that the truth finally comes out. But does it set them free? Well, let's just say that Eileen and moviegoers alike are forced to grapple with their prejudices.
When we're cut, we all bleed red, Connor's dad, Buddy, says at one point. "We're all the same inside."
Racial intolerance gets pushed back the other way, too, with whites in the small town pushing to get Lacey fired from her job at the school. But it's all a setup for communicating Perry's desire to see diverse races make beautiful music (or is it movies?) together. Indeed, in the end, we see one key (and stubborn) character go so far as saving the life of another, choosing (for once) to disregard the color of the person's skin.
Lacey is a grade school teacher, and a pretty good one at that. We see her nurturing students' special talents, as well as working hard to make sure there's no verbal bullying going on in class. When she learns that the school (and the town) is short on cash for things like textbooks and the annual Christmas Jubilee, she steps right up to try to help.
Her help, in this particular case, involves orchestrating a corporate sponsorship for the school and Jubilee, an action that triggers the film's secondary conflict: Whether or not Christmas should be celebrated as a holiday about Christ.
The whole town, it seems, wants to keep talking about and paying homage to Jesus at Christmastime, but the corporate sponsor doesn't. After lots of handwringing, I'm happy to report, the town ends up winning the skirmish, with Lacey publically shaming the big company into complying with the townsfolk's traditional view of the holidays.
Thus, we hear several mini-speeches about Jesus' central role in the festivities, along with many Christ-centered Christmas carols, including a poignant, center-stage rendition of "Mary, Did You Know?"
Unfortunately, we're also subjected to a retelling of the Christmas story by Madea, who mangles it in about as many ways as it's possible to mangle, while linking the Virgin to Mary J. Blige and piña coladas. When she's done, we see that she's used strings of Christmas lights to tie one of Lacey's grade school students to a kid-size cross.
Madea does, though, become a staunch defender of keeping Christ in Christmas … leaving me to wonder (in a friends-like-these sort of way) how much her support is really wanted. And we hear a line about the devil being a lie, followed by the quip directed at Madea, "And you're still married to him."
Buddy and his wife, Kim, share some bedroom time. It involves him slapping his overstuffed (bare) belly and asking her if she wants "some of that," then draping himself in a sheet to play a "ghost"-themed sex game of theirs in which she must "capture the rapture."
Madea talks about having once been a pole dancer, and she goes on and on about the many (physical) reasons an older woman shouldn't be buying or wearing lingerie. She brags about "marching" in a horizontal position with Jessie Jackson, among others. And she reminisces about getting pregnant while having sex in a car, listening to Meatloaf's song "Paradise by the Dashboard Light." A local yokel repeatedly talks about selling "pornsettias." We hears lines about "racks," women with hair on their chests, men with fat foreskin, "dry humping," dogs "humping" a woman's leg, Viagra, nipples, "weenies," "giblets," "wood" and other euphemisms for erections, sagging breasts, and breast feeding 'til a boy is in the 9th grade. Buddy says it was a sad day when the town's whorehouse got closed down.
We hear several threats thrown around, one directed at Lacey. Connor punches an old bully of his in the face, decking him. We see an overturned pickup truck explode moments after its injured occupant is pulled clear.
Crude or Profane Language
More than 100 swear words decorate this Perry tree, with "h‑‑‑" and "d‑‑n" comprising the vast majority (about 60 and 30, respectively). We don't hear an f-word, thanks to a bleep in the closing credits, but we do hear at least most of one s-word, along with two or three more than trail off before they're completed. Close to 20 uses of "a‑‑," one "p‑‑‑" and one "son of a b‑‑ch" also pop up. Jesus, Lord and God's names are all misused once or twice. "Ho" is used here as a putdown for women rather than something Santa might say.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Bud pulls a gallon jug of "white lightning" (moonshine) out of his truck and offers it to his son and Lacey. He talks about wanting a beer, and he does crack one open in a later scene. We hear jokes about getting high and a facetious question about whether Connor is growing marijuana.
Other Negative Elements
A sequence of visual gags and giggles revolves around white bed sheets, hoods and the KKK. Madea and others advocate physically fighting back as a way of solving negative situations.
When Madea gets fired from the department store, she steals a stack of bills from the register, along with some merchandise, just for spite. She talks about wanting to get some "scratch-offs" (lottery tickets). Vegetarians are crudely dismissed as being "tofu farters." The crew laughs at the idea of kicking a "dwarf's a‑‑." Buddy calls his wife a "bag." There's talk about defecation, setting fire to passed gas, and of urination.
The reason for the season is … to make another Madea movie? Tyler Perry, who says he's "always wanted to do a holiday movie!" once again mixes up some great messages with a mess of a big mamma who's just as comfortable cursing and crudely carrying on as she is prodding her family and friends to do the right thing, tell the truth and celebrate Christmas the way it should be celebrated.
And how is that? Well, the movie couldn't be more explicit in spelling it out: Keep Christ in Christmas.
Racial reconciliation and a bit of nudging to keep on moving past our old prejudices also consumes a good bit of screen time. Star Kathy Najimy says of that, "Philosophically, A Madea Christmas is about unity and inclusiveness and diversity." And Perry adds, "The most important lesson, to me, is that we are all the same no matter what race, no matter where we come from. We're all the same people. If there's one thing to take away from this movie it's 'Live and let live.'"
But why bring lowly Madea into all that high-mindedness? Says producer Matt Moore, "This movie is a big comedy for the whole family, and it really captures that heartfelt feeling of family coming together—and also the comedy and chaos—that Christmas is all about."
No … that's not quite right. I'm not really buying the "whole family" fun line, not with 100+ profanities, among other coarseness.
So maybe let's look at this from a slightly different angle. "I think Madea paired with the holidays spells just the right kind of trouble," Perry says. "'Cause there's nothing holy about Madea."
You said it, Tyler, you said it.