Media mogul Tyler Perry is the subject of the Prime Video documentary, “Maxine’s Baby: The Tyler Perry Story (Photo Credit: Amazon Content Services LLC).
(“Maxine’s Bay: The Tyler Perry Story” trailer courtesy of Prime Video)
Critics use many adjectives to describe filmmaker/media mogul Tyler Perry and his art.
But as the Prime Video documentary “Maxine’s Baby: The Tyler Perry Story” shows, the billionaire from New Orleans continues to inspire millions while giving opportunities to those who probably would have not gotten it from the Hollywood establishment despite the criticism that he receives.
Perry has always connected with his audience because he is that audience.
He was that poor boy from a violent area of a big city.
The filmmaker, born Emmitt Perry, Jr., watched as the women of the community complained about their no-good men.
He developed his comedic style by watching his mother’s friends laugh through their pain.
Like many in the South, Perry went to church regularly with his mother.
And like many creatives, he uses his pain and purpose to create something that can be felt by the masses and help them get through their trials and tribulations.
And despite the backlash, especially from other Black creatives, his fans have often left the theater feeling hope, faith and rolling over in laughter thanks to his creations like Madea and Joe.
But what “Maxine’s Baby: The Tyler Perry” does differently than most of his work is that it allows others, like filmmakers Gelila Bekele and Armani Ortiz, to examine the media mogul.
(Armani Ortiz, Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios)
(Gelila Bekele, Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios)
“Maxine’s Baby: The Tyler Perry Story” does not shy away from the critics like Spike Lee and Touré.
It gives those critics an equal voice as it does his fans.
The documentary allows some of his critics to be interviewed and tell what they do not like about his work.
But “Maxine’s Baby: The Tyler Perry Story” also allows those that know his story the best fill people in on why he is the way he is and why he produces the work that he does.
His cousin talks about them hiding under the house when Perry’s abusive father would torture him physically.
His aunt talks about the time she had to pull her gun on her brother-in-law for leaving welts on Perry’s back.
His childhood friends and church members talk about how he dreamed of becoming rich even when he had to share hamburgers and fries with them.
And “Maxine’s Baby: The Tyler Perry Story” talks about the consistent failure of getting his first play “I Know I’ve Been Changed” off the ground in New Orleans and Atlanta.
If critics truly digest his backstory, they still might not like his work, which is their prerogative.
But it would take a true hater to not understand why he does what he does.
Creatives are often told to create what they know.
Therefore, people pull from their experiences, whether good or bad, to create something that they hope touches the world.
That reality is why certain songwriters have a certain style.
That is why certain painters and sculptors produce certain style of arts.
And that is why certain filmmakers produce the work that they produce.
Lee’s experiences growing up in New York with a jazz musician for a father influenced the feel of his movies like “Mo Betta Blues.”
The Wayans family got many of their characters for “In Living Color” from people around their neighborhood like the brother fresh out of jail using big words incorrectly when talking to Marlon Wayans because he had read a few books in the joint and thought he was educated.
Prince made music from various genres with musicians from all races because in Minneapolis he was exposed to more integration in life and on the radio.
Likewise, Perry writes about characters that remind him about his abusive father, his gun-toting aunt and church-going mother.
“Maxine’s Baby: The Tyler Perry Story” circles around the launch of his massive Atlanta movie studio on a former Confederate army base in 2019.
Those are the moments that are most inspirational.
However, what gives “Maxine’s Baby: The Tyler Perry Story” its heart is the archival footage of him in the church choir and old interviews with his mother, Maxine Perry.
Those moments show Perry the real man.
Those moments do not show a billionaire.
Those moments do not show a media mogul.
Those moments show an ordinary youngster trying to figure his way in life.
Then it shows the mogul who conquered life and gave so many others the lives and careers that they dreamed about as well.
While many people attribute Perry’s continued success to the fact that he is a blessing to so many others because of his faith, which is probably true, “Maxine’s Baby: The Tyler Perry Story” shows someone who has conquered Hollywood while defying the critics.
But he is still not above criticizing himself.
The documentary begins with him acknowledging some of his flaws like not living in the moment, which would allow him to appreciate his many blessings and accomplishments.
But it also shows other great qualities that the man has.
The documentary ends so forgivingly as he dedicates soundstages at his studio to various Black film and media icons like Oprah Winfrey, Halle Berry, Denzel Washington, Will Smith and others.
One of those others is Lee who never shied away from critiquing his work.
But their relationship symbolizes something that is needed going forward for Black Hollywood.
Yes, disagreement and holding one another accountable will move Black Hollywood forward.
But always remember that everyone is in it together, and when one succeeds, many more will be able to walk through that door that the other opened.
The music in the documentary is great from the gospel classic “How Great is Our God” to songs by Kendrick Lamar and Otis Redding.
The only flaw with “Maxine’s Baby: The Tyler Perry Story” will be for those fans along for the ride from the beginning because many of his day one fans will already know his story.
But despite knowing the story, the documentary is still motivational, inspirational and makes something that seems unbelievable very believable.
“Maxine’s Baby: The Tyler Perry Story” begins streaming on Prime Video on Nov. 17.