“Boo! A Madea Halloween” is the worst comedy of 2016, thus far. No other movie of the genre, not even Melissa McCarthy’s godawful career nadir, “The Boss,” has featured such a staggering lack of laughter, such unlikable characters and such an idiotic story. No other movie of any genre, short of “Norm of the North,” has turned a runtime of less than two hours into such a cross for its viewers to bear. Whether it’s in its comedy, horror homages or writing, “Boo!” fails on every level.
The nonsense begins quickly. No sooner have the poorly animated opening credits ended than director/producer/writer/star/co-star Tyler Perry (“Diary of a Mad Black Woman”) treats us to a scene of the bro-iest frat bros to ever bro declaring they will have the best Halloween party in history with the passion that some Bond villains have declared they will destroy the world. This seems at first like it’s setup for something, but as the scene drags on it never crosses the line into funny, and it’s immediately clear what’s missing: a punchline.
It should be the easiest part of a comedy; even if one of the characters spouts “Your mom!” or even farts, there’s a punchline. The joke, even if it’s bad, has an ending. Perry seems to think jokes work differently. Scene after endless scene shows him apparently under the impression that if his characters just sit and talk for long enough, then by the law of averages, somebody is eventually bound to laugh. In the absence of anything funny, though, nobody laughs, and so the film labors on.
This could have worked if the characters themselves were funny, but for characters that Perry has been working with for, in some cases, 25 years, they’re arguably the worst part of the movie. Brian (Perry) is a pushover who has no personality besides being a pushover to his daughter, Tiffany (Diamond White, “The Lion Guard”), who takes every “rebellious daughter” cliché in the book to such an insane degree that it’s exhausting to watch. Enter Madea (also Perry) and co., who advocates for physical abuse and illegal scare tactics, one of which they eventually end up using. Again, some of this could be funny, but again, there’s no punchline. Instead, viewers are left with several scenes of unlikable characters debating how best to deal with an unlikable man’s unlikable daughter.
Still, the marketing promised that “Boo!” would be a tribute to horror, and once again, this is an innately funny concept, taking Perry’s most insane creation and pitting her against other crazy characters. It has the potential to be great horror-comedy and a brief but welcome departure from the tone of the series. That potential is completely and utterly squandered by the 10-minute “horror” section of the movie which amounts to the several pranks explained away in a later scene which includes the line “We hacked the faucets.”
Since “Boo!” doesn’t work in any way a movie should, its only distinctly memorable parts are the moments where it encroaches on “So Bad It’s Good” territory. There are not one, but two scenes in which the characters huddle together and say “Now here’s what we’re gonna do…” before the camera pans away and what sounds like a public domain soundtrack swells like a “Scooby-Doo” cartoon from the 1960s. Multiple shots are out of focus. In a baffling cameo, Tyga shows up and does a show for about 20 people. It could be hilarious, but at a certain point, the lack of effort displayed in these moments just becomes frustrating instead.
Eventually, mercifully, as Madea celebrates having psychologically tortured a teenager into complacency, the credits roll. The audience leaves, undeniably changed, for “Boo!” works on one level: it is the ultimate endurance test. Every moment that the inane dialogue doesn’t drive the viewer to insanity is a victory. Every “joke” that goes on for 10 minutes but doesn’t have a punchline is a red badge of courage. “Boo!” is genuinely flooring in just how atrocious it is, worth the price of admission only for those willing to test their mettle.