Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Witness Protection
Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Witness Protection
By Wilson Morales
In ‘Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Witness Protection,’ first Madea film that’s not based on any stage play, Tyler Perry brings the same persona that his fans come to expect, but the tone is fairly light on the laughs and short on the entertainment value. Co-starring with actors (Eugene Levy, Doris Roberts, Tom Arnold, Denise Richards, Danielle Campbell, Devan Leos, Romeo, John Amos, and Marla Gibbs) who are used to being in secondary roles, Perry, who carries the load as three characters in the film, is the sole reason his fans will come out and support this film. It’s not the funniest Madea film we’ve seen, but it’s certainly a vast improvement over his last Madea effort, ‘Madea’s Big Happy Family.’ That’s not saying much, but at least his fans will be happy that Madea has more to do here than playing second fiddle to other characters.
In ‘Madea’s Witness Protection,’ George Needleman (Eugene Levy) is a happy-go-lucky successful CFO of an investment film whose world turns upside down when he goes to his office and finds his co-worker, Walter (Tom Arnold) and the staff shredding every paper due to the fact the government is about to come after them for running a Ponzi scheme. Clueless that he’s been set up, George, admits to being part of the scam on Walter’s recorder. When Walter informs him that most of the money was laundered for the mob, George tries his best to save himself for criminal charges.
Meanwhile, things are not happy on the home front. George’s second wife is a younger woman (Denise Richards), and son is upset that George never has time to stay home and play baseball with him. With his teenage daughter (Danielle Campbell) resenting her step mom, and his mom (Doris Roberts), whose lives with them, suffering from a case of dementia or Alzheimer’s, George has the difficult task of informing them of his latest dilemma.
Facing jail, and even worse, death threats from the mob, prosecutor Brian (Tyler Perry) takes it upon himself to place George and his family into protective custody. Rather than relocating the Needlemans at some place on the west coast like Arizona or other government facility, he elects to hide them at the one place he feels they will be safe, in Atlanta as his aunt Mabel “Madea” Simmons’ house.
Reluctant to take in a family at her house until Brian entices her with money talk, Madea is all game until she sees that it’s a white Jewish family she’s taking in. Not only does she have to deal with her nagging brother and Brian’s father, Joe (also played by Perry) living at the house and, Madea to restore some order of nobility when the Needlemans are at odds with each other over their circumstances. There’s only so much chaos Madea can take before she puts her foot down and sets everyone straight.
While this is Perry’s 14th film in the last 10 years, ‘Witness Protection’ is Perry’s sixth film featuring Madea. ‘Madea Goes to Jail’ was his most successful film, grossing a little $90M, but since he hasn’t been able to capture those laugh-out-loud moments his fan come to expect, as if he’s holding out for the right script or a larger audience. The jokes are not clear and present as you want it to be. Eugene Levy is a riot when it comes to the ‘American Pie’ films, but he doesn’t seem to bring that sense of energy here. He looks like a deer in headlights. Even Perry himself can only so much to carry the load. Playing three characters, and wearing hats such as director, writer, and producer, can be a difficult task, but he barely pulls it off. When Richards, who’s has no funny bones, does her Madea impersonation on-screen, a chuckle registers.
There’s another subplot in the film involving Romeo Miller and John Amos’ characters that’s really pointless. It’s just used to broaden his message, as in most of his Madea films, about family and respect. While it’s nice to see Amos in a somewhat bigger role than expected, Perry clearly wastes the talent of Marla Gibbs. Blink and you will miss her. The scene-stealer of the film goes to Doris Roberts. Her scenes with Joe are hilarious and give the Perry fans a reason to be amused. In the end, Madea’s back, but Perry needs to write better material.