Grae's currently on vacation in an exotic land until the end of April. Subbing for her is fellow MDC writer Alonso Duralde. Follow him on Twitter at @ADuralde.
Who's In It: Loretta Devine, Tyler Perry, Shad "Bow Wow" Moss, Isaiah Mustafa, Cassi Davis, Shannon Kane, Lauren London
The Basics: Shirley (Devine) discovers that she doesn't have long to live, so she wants to get her family together for dinner so she can tell them all the bad news. But getting this brood to spend time in each other's company is next to impossible, since they've got their own problems: Tammy (Natalie Desselle Reid) fights with her husband and lets her kids run wild, uptight Realtor Kimberly (Kane) is equally brittle with Shirley and with her good-natured husband Calvin (Mustafa), and former drug dealer Byron (Moss) is trying to go straight despite pressure from his baby's mother Sabrina (Teyana Taylor) and his greedy girlfriend Renee (London). Can Madea (Perry) teach these fools to act right?
What's The Deal: Let's take it as a given that this new Tyler Perry comedy contains everything you find in most every other Tyler Perry movie -- cruel career women, saintly mothers, good men who are forced to put their foot down to keep their ladies in line, lowbrow humor, and generous helpings of JesusJesusJesus. Within those parameters, Madea's Big Happy Family is probably Perry's best film to date. You may find Madea's ideas about child-rearing (no rod is spared) and marriage (husbands need to remind their wives who's the boss) reprehensible, but she's hilarious, and Perry's cross-dressing performance makes up for many of the film's weaknesses. The female characters are all saints or shrews, but at least Teyana Taylor makes her overbearingly obnoxious character so exaggeratedly awful that she gives an inspired comic performance. (You'll hear the way she says "By-rooooooooooooon" in your nightmares.)
Don't You Want To Smell Like Him?: Old Spice spokesmodel Mustafa is perfectly fine in the underwritten role of the Realtor's patient and loving husband, and if you're a fan of the authoritative announcer-voice he brings to his deodorant commercials, you'll get more of it here.
Madea's A Role Model Now, Apparently: In interviews, Perry has said that Madea has cleaned up her act somewhat since she's so popular with kids. That means she now carries a hammer in her purse instead of a gun, and she's apparently stopped smoking pot as well, leaving all the weed-related jokes to Aunt Bam (Davis). Madea's still got a colorful past, however, since she admits that she "put the H-O in 'ho'" in a mostly pointless subplot in which it emerges that Mr. Brown (David Mann) might not be the father of Madea's daughter Cora (Tamela J. Mann) after all.
Let Her Be Less Divine: Loretta Devine is a brilliantly talented comic actress, but she gets cast over and over (see: First Sunday, Dirty Laundry, This Christmas, Lottery Ticket) as a sweet-natured church lady. Here's hoping the upcoming Jumping the Broom gives her something a little meatier to play.