Tyler Perry is one of the hardest-working men in the movie business. Since 2005, he’s written, produced, directed, and starred in about a dozen movies, many which feature his most popular character – Madea. All of his previous films have been a mixture of drama and comedy. But Perry called “Madea’s Witness Protection” his first pure comedy. And that’s true, to some extent.
Veteran funnyman Eugene Levy (“Best in Show”, SCTV) plays George Needleman, a husband, father and Wall Street investment banker. George walks into his work one day and finds-out that his company’s been involved in a ponzi scheme and he’s been set-up to take the fall, meaning a long prison term. He’s also wanted by the mob, which was involved in the scheme. George wants to do the right thing and clear his name so he has to go into “witness protection” while he’s working with the District Attorney’s office trying to find proof of who the real criminals are.
An assistant DA (one of three characters Perry plays in the film) also happens to be Madea’s nephew. He decides that the best place to keep George and his family safe is in…Madea’s house. So this dysfunctional family (which includes his young wife (Denise Richards), and his mother (Doris Roberts) travels to Georgia to stay with Madea and her brother Joe (also Perry).
This is my first Madea movie and my first Tyler Perry movie, so I didn’t quite know what to expect. Of course I’d heard of Madea, and seen clips, but I didn’t know how funny and smart a character she is. When she’s on screen, she owns it, whether it’s calling Yoga “Yoda”, confusing WiFi with waffles or doing her “Tyra Banks Walk”. Perry is so good at writing and playing Madea and Joe that after awhile, you don’t even realize that it’s actually him underneath the make-up and outfits.
The last third of the film, when Madea goes to New York City to help George try to make things right is when “Madea’s Witness Protection” is at its best. Madea cracks endless, and hilarious one-liners while going through the airport, on the plane and in the hotel (and there are more during the end credits). If this had been the entire film – “Madea Goes to New York” – it could have been a classic.
Instead, the rest of the movie, when Madea isn’t on screen, is pretty dull. Levy is a great comic actor, but he’s not given the material to work with here. Richards is bland and Roberts’ character – who’s obviously suffering from Alzheimer’s – isn’t funny at all. I wish all of that script time had, instead, been spent on Madea. And I still can’t believe this is the first time Madea’s starring in a comedy.
And the two kids are straight out of a bad sitcom. There’s also a subplot involving Romeo Miller (who used to be “Lil’ Romeo”) and his father (a church minister) who lost the Church’s money in the ponzi scheme. I guess this was Perry’s way to try to get some dramatic moments into the film, but it’s not effective and totally unnecessary. And it also appears the movie was put together in a hurry – there’s some rough camera work and sloppy editing.
“Madea’s Witness Protection” is rated PG-13 for some adult language and references. It’s appropriate for teens and up. If you’re a fan of Perry’s movies and his characters, you should definitely be pleased with it. This movie can be very funny, but it could have been so much funnier.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Witness Protection” gets a C+. Considering the reaction to “Alex Cross” I hope Perry does another Madea comedy soon and this time gives her all 90-minutes and just lets her do her thing.