Who's In It: Loretta Devine, Tyler Perry, Isaiah Mustafa, Shad "Bow Wow" Moss, Cassi Davis, Shannon Kane, Natalie Desselle Reid, Rodney Perry, Tamela Mann, David Mann, Teyana Taylor, Lauren London
The Basics: Loretta Devine (cast, once again, as a long-suffering Christian mom) learns that she's dying of cancer and attempts in vain to bring her estranged family back together to break the news and facilitate some fence-mending. Naturally her kids are having none of it, bickering with each other and, in turn, ruining their own happiness and relationships for good measure. That means Madea has to step in and knock sense--sometimes figuratively, sometimes literally--into some stubborn skulls. If you think she's incapable of this task then you've never seen a Tyler Perry movie before.
What's The Deal: But I have. In fact, I've spent a lot of hours over the past decade watching every Tyler Perry movie in existence and here's what I've learned about myself: I like Madea and I like gospel choir-saturated finales but I dislike simplistic, bulldozer melodrama. So I've been waiting patiently for Perry to make a Madea film that suits my tastes and I think this is the one. It's heavy on the crazed antics of the big lady with the hammer in her purse, full of her trademark hollering, hitting and haranguing; and it pulls back on the kind of arm-twisting emotional payoffs that, in the past, have found actors like Keshia Knight Pulliam weirdly miscast as desperately miserable, crack-addicted prostitutes. If his past films were equal parts comedy and drama, this one is almost non-stop funny. I laughed so much that I actually started to notice that I was laughing so much.
The Good Stuff: Even when the movie takes a sharp right turn into Mama's-dying-so-let's-all-stop-fighting-oops-hang-on-it's-time-to-reveal-shocking-family-secrets territory, the abundantly talented Devine takes control of the situation and carries the rest of the cast along with her. Meanwhile, Perry packs more words-per-minute into Madea's machine-gun-fast tirades than ever before and finally hits his stride with a character that, off screen, he seems to be hinting at abandoning. He shouldn't.
One To Watch: That would be newcomer Teyana Taylor (you'll know her when you see her because she looks like what would happen if Kimberly Elise and Rihanna combined their DNA and made a baby) as Bow Wow's extremely loud, extremely obnoxious ex-girlfriend. She's the funniest supporting character in the movie, taking over every scene she's in, whipping her hair back and forth, letting the costume department have their own wild way with her outfits and burning herself into your consciousness with a crazy braying whine that never lets up. She needs her own sitcom right away.