Written and Directed by: Tyler Perry
Starring: Tyler Perry, Cassi Davis, Patrice Lovely
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman (@brettgallman)
You better not be trickin' again.
When Tyler Perry took his wildly popular Madea character trick or treating in last year’s Boo!, I couldn’t help but tip my cap towards the man: his style of humor isn’t exactly my speed, but it’s hard not to respect a guy who is very much doing his own thing, smuggling his own bizarre preoccupations and worldview right through the studio system—all while appealing to a marginalized audience that’s typically overlooked by Hollywood. If nothing else, Perry’s appeal can’t be ignored, no matter how much he seems to operate at the fringes of the mainstream. However, with the release of the hastily-produced Boo 2!, I’m wondering if maybe someone shouldn’t stage some sort of intervention and pull him back from whatever mean-spirited abyss inspired this follow-up. While most of Perry’s films provide a glimpse into a mind that can be generously described as “askew,” Boo 2! feels like an exercise in pure sociopathy. Considering the trash I have enjoyed and championed over the years, I am clearly in no real position to judge, but even I find myself taken aback by how dreadfully unfunny and downright mean this one is.
Set exactly a year after the events of the previous year, Boo 2! opens with Brian (Perry) “surprising” his daughter Tiffany (Diamond White) at school—just like he has for the past 12 years. Now an 18-year-old senior, Tiffany has grown tired of her lame dad, who had to gall not to give her a car on account of her irresponsibility; no worries, though, as her mom (Taja V. Simpson) and stepfather (Akende Munalula) toss her the keys to her own new vehicle, much to Brian’s consternation. It’s especially humiliating for him when his extended family (led by ringleader Madea) catches wind and chastises him for being such a feckless wuss. To make matters worse, Tiffany—looking to make amends for last year’s debacle—decides she’s going to attend this year’s Halloween fraternity bash at a nearby lake where dozens of people were recently murdered.
Naturally, Madea and her crew try to intervene to disastrous results in more ways than one. Obviously, it leads to a madcap night full of over-the-top inanity, but it’s also something of a cinematic debacle. Given how quickly this one was put into production, it’s no surprise that the seams are evident, from some weirdly dubbed (and even flubbed) lines to the ramshackle plot—if, indeed, it can even be considered to have a plot. Not that the first Boo! was exactly a paragon in this respect, but this one feels virtually improvised, as jokes are recycled repeatedly and certain gags go on for far too long. It’s never a good sign when a film grates within the first fifteen minutes or so like this one does: by the time you’ve watched Madea and company roast the hell out of her poor nephew, you’ll catch the generally unpleasant vibe on display throughout as Perry takes every opportunity to sling around his brand of juvenile insult comedy.
Obviously, that has its appeal for some, and even I can recall being somewhat charmed (or maybe bludgeoned) by a handful of moments in the first Boo! Here, however, those charms are nowhere to be found. Diminishing returns (how funny can a joke be the second time around?) and uninspired gags conspire to create a pretty miserable experience. To gauge your tolerance for this second round of Madea Halloween madness, you’ll need to figure out just how many times you’ll want to endure Joe (Perry’s old man alter-ego) uncomfortably hitting on young girls and making cracks about how Madea is actually a man. This isn’t among the absolute worst Boo 2! has to offer, but the sheer number of times Perry draws from this toxic wells speaks to the dearth of imagination on display throughout the film. Like a class clown that got a couple of cheap laughs early in the semester, Perry mercilessly resorts to the same tired cracks without a hint of a setup or punchline—seriously, Joe continuously insisting that Madea “looks like a dude” is what counts as an entire joke here at least a dozen times.
Also considered to be a joke in Perry’s comic sensibilities: pure, unfiltered misogyny. Look, I’m not going to act like the first Boo! (or, hell, any Perry effort) is high-brow comedy—if you’ll recall, a large chunk of that film made light of child abuse and featured at least one scene where Madea insulted an overweight trick-or-treater. Some chuckles—however uncomfortable and wrongheaded they might be—can be gleaned from the sheer audacity of essentially daring the audience to laugh at it. Such is not the case here since the unseemly depiction of women—and the jokes directed towards them—are despicably unfunny. Not only are there “jokes” about how one should treat certain promiscuous women, but every woman character is a wildly dumb caricature.
If Brian’s wife isn’t being a shrew, then his daughter is being an ungrateful brat (thus undermining the entire point of the previous movie). One of the college girls only exists to be a maniacal stalker who’s obsessed with meat-headed (but luxuriously maned) frat boy Horse, while Tiffany’s best friend—the good Christian girl of the group trying to ward off his horndogs/sexual predators—is depicted as a total buzzkill. Madea’s companions Bam (Cassi Davis) and Hattie (Patrice Lovely) don’t fare much better: the former is defined by her weak bladder, while the latter is supposed to draw jokes from her speech impediment and perpetual horniness. These aren’t characters—they’re twisted vessels onto which Perry projects some pretty unseemly “humor” as he crafts an anarchic, almost amoral display of abject cruelty masquerading as a comedy.
Ironically enough, it takes aim at (or at least half-assed feigns at) sending up slasher movies, a genre that has invited critical bile and contempt for decades. If Perry can be commended for anything here, it’s his willingness to at least try out a different mode this time out, even if he flubs the details, particularly when it pertains to the lore established here. It’s typical backwoods hicks stuff—something about a pair of brothers slaughtering some teenagers some years back—but I swear these killers have at least three different names. At one point, everyone keeps talking about a singular Derrick, even though it’s been established there are clearly two “killers,” leading me to believe Perry cranked his out rather quickly. Either that or he knows his audience doesn’t give a shit, especially since no one could reasonably believe this to be an actual slasher movie, what with all the “deaths” occurring off-screen and the shenanigans from the previous movie.
So no matter how much you’d really like to see some backwoods maniacs butcher this obnoxious collection of testosterone-soaked frat boys and their vapid companions, you know it’s not meant to be. In fact, just about the only overt horror elements here involve a couple of goofs on The Ring (which feels straight out of a Friedberg/Seltzer atrocity from 2003) and Get Out (where the implications are…interesting, to say the least), plus some Halloween decorations at the lakeside party. Otherwise, it’s much like its predecessor in the sense that it’s mostly just a Madea movie with holiday trimming, only it’s even been shorn of Perry’s brand of incongruent moralizing. If Boo 2! carries any message at all, it’s the awful, noxious insistence that men need to keep women in their place, whether it’s their ex-wives or their daughters. I'd say we should be doing much better than this in 2017, but that would sadly be unfounded optimism given the current state of affairs.
But, then again, this is the sort of film that climaxes with a guy threatening to braid another dude’s hair (?!) before it quite literally quits. Seriously, Boo 2! “ends” with a non-joke that segues directly into a blooper reel that doesn’t even have the decency to play over the end credits. You sit there, waiting to be freed from its clutches, only to endure another five minutes or so of dumb outtakes that are supposed to serve as an ending. Honestly, I’m not sure if I should really be that mad about Boo 2! not even bothering to have a proper ending when the bloopers are pretty much indistinguishable from the movie itself. What's most important is that it does indeed end, albeit with the sinking feeling that I'll be sitting here a year from now talking about Boo 3.
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