Tyler Perry does not enjoy a favorable reputation among critics, especially those in the black community. Serious reviews of his movies usually focus on discussing whether they qualify as comedy or minstrelsy, and the debates about the morality of Perry dressing in drag to portray his signature character, an uppity old woman named Madea, are plentiful and endless.
But despite the controversy, Perry’s films continue to draw big audiences, which are usually predominantly African-American. And why not? Madea is an entertaining character, and there’s a feeling of loose, improvisational fun in Perry’s comedies that is not often seen outside of sketch-comedy shows. Perry’s output also has the appeal of being self-written, directed, and produced—a sadly rare combination for a black man working in Hollywood. This gives his movies an outsider appeal, marking them as a sort of alternative entertainment in a world of mostly homogenized pop-culture choices.
Unfortunately, Boo 2! spreads its funny moments perilously thin and suffers from a cringe-worthy plot in which a barely 18-year-old woman named Tiffany (Diamond White) and her friends are seduced by sleazy frat boys at the site of a horrible mass murder. As in its predecessor, Madea is tasked with investigating the illicit Halloween party; this leads to typically frenzied high jinks as she, along with her family members Bam (Cassi Davis), Hattie (Patrice Lovely), and foulmouthed ex-pimp Joe (also played by Perry), face off against a variety of madmen and monsters at the haunted campsite. Perry also appears in a third role as Tiffany’s mild-manned father Brian, who surprisingly gets almost as many laughs as Madea despite having considerably less screen time.
There is nothing unexpected here, and while there are a few good laughs to be had along the way, fans of Tyler Perry and Madea will likely be disappointed that the gags aren’t as consistent as they are in his other films. It’s also disappointing that Perry has abandoned the social commentary that he began to explore in movies like Madea Goes to Jail in favor of less inventive rehashes of his familiar schtick. Boo 2! may have been largely improvised, and it might represent a change of pace from your typical Hollywood comedy, but that doesn’t make it fresh.