Over this past New Year’s Day holiday, I got a chance to see a number of movies. I saw Mandela: The Long Walk Home, starring Idris Elba. I have to admit that when I first learned he was being cast to pay Mandela, I had doubts about his ability. He didn’t strike me as the “right person” to play such a role. Thankfully he proved me wrong by turning in a wonderful performance.
Yet I didn’t like the movie. The major reason was that it didn’t tell me much that the other movies about Mandela had already related. I would have liked seeing Mandela evading the South African police, utilizing the disguises he was known to employ. And during his years on Robben Island, I would like to have seen more about how he learned Afrikaner, how he was able to keep in contact with the outside world via secret message exchanges, and how he won the mental game of getting the respect of the jailers who meant to demoralize him.
Too much of the movie was dedicated to hitting the key points. The movie covered all those points without the corresponding detail that would give deeper meaning to all those points. Without that detail, the movie wasn’t able to connect with someone who was unfamiliar with Mandela’s life story.
I also got the chance to see Tyler Perry’s new movie, A Madea Christmas. Truthfully, I wanted to see the movie based on the strength of Tyler Perry’s name and reputation alone. A Madea movie normally provides a very funny experience, especially when she goes off on some black folks. Even in her most disparaging of remarks to them, she makes some very salient points.
One of the scenes I will always remember was in the movie Meet the Browns. Angela Basset played a single mother and she has to do something. So she asked Madea to watch her young child. The point I remember most is when Madea questions Basset’s character: If she couldn’t afford to have the children, why did she get pregnant to begin with? It was a moment where a very serious issue was at least brought up. Unfortunately, the scene went on with what happens far too often in addressing serous questions like that. The Bassett character replied that the child was already here as if that addressed the question asked. That scene always made me wish they had expounded more. However, just that glimmer resonated so that hopefully it might weigh on someone’s mind at a later date.
As I sat and watched the latest movie, I didn’t find it funny. There was the obligatory scene with Madea acting ignorant to people while incompetently doing her new job. But as I watched further, I noted that instead of the movie being a comedy with a variety of African-Americans characters who balanced out the shenanigans as in the typical Madea movie, this time the cast was predominantly white.
Worst is that every negative stereotype involved the three black characters while the whites characters were reinforced with positive attributes. This is the second Madea movie that has gone from having a predominantly African-American cast to one that is predominantly white. I didn’t find the movie Madea: Witness Protection to be very funny either. Madea’s antics in the new movie appear even more buffoonish when one doesn’t have other black characters in the movie that balance out her clowning.
I remember years back when Roger Ebert panned the movie Diary of a Mad Black Woman, and he received so many emails telling him he didn’t understand the Madea character in the film. Ebert even wrote a second column that re-examined the movie through the eyes of all those black folks who protested the initial review.
Now I wonder if we all need to write letters of protest to Tyler, asking him why he has changed from being a vehicle to give so many black actors and actresses opportunities, and why excluding black characters is doing the same thing mainstream movies already do.
The movie I saw was the bootlegged version. After watching this latest effort, I’m glad.
At least some black bootleggers will make money!