Mad Families relies wholly upon an unrealistic scenario of coincidence for its plot, lazily treating the feature film as though it were a forgettable episode of a poorly written sitcom. This is somewhat fitting, considering how much of the cast is made up of television actors in obvious need of a payday. But even these fading stars of the small screen deserve better than writer/director Fred Wolf has to offer, a man whose crowning achievement was writing the screenplay for the Grown Ups movies and directing the straight-to-video sequel to Joe Dirt.
As with many of Wolf’s endeavors, Mad Families feels like something written and shelved in the 1990s. Three families with similar names are all accidentally booked for the same camping spot on a busy 4th of July weekend, and instead of conceding it to each other, decide to compete for the right to stay. To make matters more complicated, or simply less politically correct, each of the families are made up of different ethnicities. This allows the families to be transparent stand-ins for racial tension in
a weekend when the country and all its diversity is meant to be celebrated. America
Unfortunately, there is little to celebrate within Wolf’s screenplay, co-written by David Spade. Much of the humor comes from jokes about racial stereotypes, and the characters are only developed enough to help with these jokes. There are also a few convenient romances, coincidentally involving members of the different families. Franklin (Finesse Mitchell) is being set-up with Shantaysia (Chanel Iman), whose name alone is used as a running gag in the black family, despite secretly having a relationship with Felipa (Naya Rivera), a member of the Hispanic family that just happens to know him outside of this coincidental situation. Shantaysia is not neglected, however, when an alcoholic member of the white family (Charlie Sheen) shows an interest in her.
Although the romances are the closest thing to an actual storyline, aside from the basic premise, there are a number of additional character traits that make up the running gags of the film. Both the Hispanic and African American families have disappointing sons (Juan Gabriel Pareja and Lil Rel Howery) that are somewhat of an embarrassment, while the white family has more of a weird uncle (Clint Howard). Leah Remini also co-stars as a step-mother desperate not to be called “fake mom” by her new husband’s children, which range from very young to a 20-something sexpot (Charlotte McKinney). The younger children in the film are mostly a reminder that the adult actors are not the least talented cast members.
The film doesn’t have much direction beyond the inevitable resolution between families, mostly aimlessly drifting between various race jokes. The film feels written with sitcom sensibilities, which makes sense considering the cast. The DVD includes no special features, not that anyone who has endured the feature film will be looking for additional content.
Entertainment Value: 3.5/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 2/10
Historical Significance: 0/10
Special Features: 0/10