Tyler Perry’s “Boo 2! A Madea Halloween” would be tone deaf, lacking in plot, and almost entirely humorless in any year. That is happens to arrive in theaters amid a cascade of sexual assault survivors sharing their stories about sexual assault doesn’t help its case. Perry has built his slice of a Hollywood empire profiting off the cheap laughter of the most insidious homophobic impulses in society — the ones that tell people there is nothing funnier than a man in a dress. “Boo!” is no exception.
Still, Perry is a versatile character comedian. Madea, the wise-cracking old lady he has played in drag for 15 years, is the movie’s central figure and also its funniest. Perry also plays her “creepy old man” brother, Joe, whose only breaks from slobbering over teenage girls are to call Madea “dude” or “man.” Perry’s discomfort with Madea’s drag is so palpable, you’d think he hated the character who made him his fortune.
Perry also plays the movie’s hero (naturally), Brian, who throws a surprise party for his daughter Tiffany’s (Diamond White) 18th birthday. Brian is enraged to be shown up by Tiffany’s mother, Debra (Taja V. Simpson) who buys Tiffany a red MINI Cooper without his knowledge. When Tiffany wants to attend a Halloween party at Derrick Lake, a remote camp site rumored to be haunted after multiple teenagers died there, she and Debra hatch a plan to lie to Brian about that as well.
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There’s no big reveal, as Brian learns of the plan before they even go, in just one of the movie’s many strangely written scenes. Much of the movie consists of conversations that drag endlessly on over minor conflicts so that men can make sex jokes or Madea’s friends can make denture jokes. When Tiffany and her friends do end up at the party, they are constantly pressured for sex by three insufferable meatheads, one of whom laughs obnoxiously like a hyena (YouTube star Yousef Erakat).
When Madea and Joe arrive with their crew in tow (the versatile Patrice Lovely and Cassi Davis in old lady drag), they discover a scary little girl much like the one from “The Ring” on the side of the road. But she — and the men who materialize to chase people through the woods with chainsaws — never amount to more than a whole lot of screaming with not a lot of killing. This may be a Halloween comedy, but as light on gore as it is on genuine laugh moments.
Needless to say, Brian must save the day; he even gets to emasculate his wife’s new boyfriend. Tiffany’s friend narrowly escapes Joe’s advances once he learns that she’s not in fact 18, though not before joking that “you don’t like the woods, but I sure love a nice bush.” Even for an early, Madea-friendly audience that joined this critic for a midday screening (“Boo 2” wasn’t screened for press), the sprinkling of laughs stopped after the first 10 minutes. “Boo 2” may be able to sustain a weak box office with little competition, but that doesn’t make it any less of a wake-up call to our toxic culture that laughs at sexual coercion and protects the egos of fragile men.
“Boo 2! A Madea Halloween” is currently playing in theaters nationwide.