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MADEA'S BIG HAPPY FAMILY

About The Production
With the release of Lionsgate's MADEA'S BIG HAPPY FAMILY, writer/director/star Tyler Perry offers a testament to the healing power of faith and family, told with his signature blend of laughter and pathos. At a time when many commercial films fit neatly into particular genres, Perry bucks the trend by combining broad humor and heartfelt drama, creating a world where physical comedy, sight gags and caricature intertwine with deeply felt stories about loss, abuse and broken lives. It's a balance that, in the director's opinion, is not unlike life itself. "Comedy is all around me,” says Perry. "Even in some of the most serious situations, even in some of my greatest sadness, I find something to be joyful about. That's why my films are the way they are. The audience wants to laugh. They want to have a little drama or melodrama. So I just love going all the way in both directions. And with Madea I can do that.”

"Tyler understands the healing power of humor,” says producer Reuben Cannon, who produced Perry's first film, Lionsgate's DIARY OF A MAD BLACK WOMAN in 2005 and has been part of Perry's team ever since. "Sometimes to get the truth across, you can do it more effectively while they're laughing.”

MADEA'S BIG HAPPY FAMILY marks Perry's eleventh film production in approximately six years. In that short span, he's outpaced every other writer/director making films for theatrical release, produced hit television shows and built his own 200,000 sq. ft. studio facility in his hometown of Atlanta. But as the latest work in a steady stream of entertainment emerging from Tyler Perry Studios, MADEA'S BIG HAPPY FAMILY holds special significance for the film magnate. "I wrote the play that the movie is based on as an homage to my mother who had passed away,” explains Perry. "Now I'm just really excited about having an opportunity to use this movie as my instrument to get through my own grief. Writing this story has helped me a great deal. And to be able to use something so tragic for me and pass it on to someone else and make them laugh, I have joy. It's a good feeling.”

MADEA'S BIG HAPPY FAMILY begins with bad news. Shirley, the aged mother of three adult children, learns that she is gravely ill. But she greets this misfortune with the unflappable positivity of a woman of strong faith. Anchoring the large ensemble cast, veteran actress Loretta Devine imbues Shirley with a deep, all-encompassing maternal warmth that is all but lost on her troubled, self-involved children. "Shirley's been sick for going on seven years and due to her illness she hasn't been able to manage her children very well,” explains Devine. "She's a soft-spoken woman who relies on prayer, as opposed to hard discipline.”

Anticipating her final days, Shirley only wishes to have her fractured family united around her when she shares the news of her prognosis. "She wants to look at her children,” Devine explains. "She wants them to feel her love and her care and her kindness.”

"Loretta has tremendous range as an actress,” says producer Roger M. Bobb. "What you need to be able to do in a Tyler Perry movie is go from drama to comedy in a snap – not from scene to scene, but sometimes literally from sentence to sentence. Very few actors can really pull that off. Loretta can.”

Unable to wrestle her children's attention away from their own dysfunctional lives, Shirley naturally turns to the only person who commands the authority to make people listen: Madea. The hilarious no-nonsense grandmother played by Perry, Madea is no stranger to the filmmaker's fans. Since her first appearance in Perry's debut film DIARY OF A MAD BLACK WOMAN, Madea has been the cornerstone star of Perry's ever-expanding gallery of characters and one of the primary reasons for the filmmaker's enduring popularity. Simply put, audiences love her.

"At a time when there's so much elusiveness about what is genuine or not, Madea is steadfast in her convictions,” says executive producer Ozzie Areu. "She's a truth-teller. She comes in with her no-nonsense, tough-love approach and gets straight to the heart of the matter.”

"Madea loves people, but she doesn't really care about your feelings,” adds Devine. "She just wants to tell the truth. Whatever nationality or culture you come from, no matter what language you speak, I think everybody has a Madea in their family.”

MADEA'S BIG HAPPY FAMILY features more of Madea than any other Perry film. But for his part, Perry admits he doesn't always relish donning the dress and make-up to bring Madea to life. "All the make-up and the costumes while I'm directing is a lot. But audiences wanted more so I sucked it up and gave it to them,” he says. "I do love watching it back later on. I love to see what happens after it's over. Madea's energy is contagious. She's not politically correct. Don't ask her if you don't want to know the plain, honest truth, because she doesn't give a damn. I think that's why people enjoy her so much.”

In this film, Perry has supplied Madea with an inspired new sidekick in Aunt Bam, a guileless cousin who shares the task of uniting Shirley's children. Played by Cassi Davis, Aunt Bam is, in Perry's words, "a wildcat and a wild card.”

"Aunt Bam doesn't judge,” says Davis of her character. "She actually just loves really, really hard.”

Years ago, when he was writing, directing and starring in stage plays (many of which were later adapted into his films), Perry pursued Davis for one of his productions, eventually casting her in the first incarnation of Aunt Bam. Explains Perry, "We created that character together on stage, and we went on tour doing it.” That production subsequently landed Davis a regular role on Perry's television show, "House of Payne,” but the memory of Davis' hilarious turn as Aunt Bam wasn't easily extinguished. Perry continues, "I kept thinking about her. She's so great and so funny. I said, ‘I've got to have you in the movie. We've got to have some fun with it.' People are used to seeing her playing Ella, Miss Goody Two Shoes nice woman on "House of Payne.” But you see her cut loose in this one.”

"You can't imagine anyone else playing Aunt Bam,” adds Cannon. "Cassi gave life to Aunt Bam when Tyler wrote the play. And in the film, that life has taken on another dimension. Seeing her with Tyler as Madea is just amazing. There's an almost telepathic communication that takes place between them.”

Such a bond is not something in evidence between Shirley's two daughters. The eldest, Tammy, is often overcome with anger, and she has no qualms taking it out on her endlessly accommodating husband, Harold. "Tammy's very angry, very bitter,” explains actress Natalie Desselle Reid. "She's very sensitive and emotional. Tammy tries to keep it all in control, but it's very hard for her. She just throws all of her pain and disagreements on her husband without giving him a chance to figure it out or say a word.”

Explains Perry, "Tammy's problem is she's looking for her husband to take charge. But because he won't, she's had to. And it's caused quite a deal of frustration and dissension between the two of them.”

Reid is quick to point out that this is not the way she treats her real life husband. "My husband would never allow it. I would never do it,” she avows. "But this character was so much fun to play because I could do it to Harold and he couldn't do anything back!”

"Harold is henpecked,” agrees actor Rodney Perry. "His wife Tammy is wilding out on him, his kids don't respect him and it's only with the help of Madea that he kind of finds his way.” Tammy has a combative, and competitive, relationship w

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