STARRING Tyler Perry, Denise Richards, Eugene Levy, Tom Arnold, Doris Roberts, Percy Miller, Marla Gibbs WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY Tyler Perry MPAA RATING Rated PG-13 RUNNING TIME 114 Mins. DISTRIBUTED BY Lionsgate Films
"Madea's Witness Protection" Review
Even the funniest joke is only funny for so long.
It seems like Tyler Perry's Madea character has been around forever, but in reality it all began in 2005 with Perry's adaptation from stage of Diary of a Mad Black Woman. Since then, Perry has created a mini-empire in his hometown of Atlanta, an empire based largely upon his stage productions and occasional other directorial efforts.
It's hard not to admire Perry, whose films are a cross between broad stage comedies and faith-inspired morality films. The fact that Perry has built a solid audience for his films despite their largely being morality plays that center around a core character in drag is, quite simply, nothing short of miraculous. What's even more miraculous is that, if we're being honest, Perry isn't a brilliant filmmaker nor actor.
But, quite simply, Perry has learned exactly what his audiences appreciate and he gives it to them. So, they keep showing up. Perry's films have never been huge money makers but, with very few exceptions, they've always made back their production budget and/or turned a tidy little profit.
So, the world of Tyler Perry and Madea continues.
It's not a world without entertainment value, though it's arguable that the whole Madea thing is getting a wee bit tired and even Perry himself seems a bit less energized and inspired in this latest production, Madea's Witness Protection. In case you haven't quite caught on to the story, this time around Madea finds herself recruited by a nephew to play protective mother hen to a corporate executive (Eugene Levy) who finds himself taking the fall for a Ponzi scheme run by the mob. The FBI has offered our fall guy a deal if he testifies, but they have to keep him alive long enough for him to do so. So, he and his wife (Denise Richards), his mother (Doris Roberts) and their two kids are shipped off to Madea's not quite as regal as they are used to estate.
Much of Madea's Witness Protection plays off both the racial and cultural differences that exist, though it almost goes without saying in a Tyler Perry film that lessons will be learned and everyone will be getting along in the end.
Pretty much the entire film is played for laughs here, with very little action conflict and, rather surprisingly, none of the bad guys ever actually show up. While Perry has shown a willingness to tackle the bad guys and challenging topics in the past, Madea's Witness Protection is pretty much a straight-forward comedy that only loyal devotees are likely to really appreciate.
The cast is generally fine here, though I continue to struggle with why an actor with Eugene Levy's talent continues to sign himself on to so many middling films. Perry himself feels distracted here, less invested in the outrageousness that has been the hallmark of the Madea character. There are several scenes that serve up Madea's trademark brashness, however, everything here feels less brash, less in-your-face, less convincing and less entertaining.
A Tyler Perry film only for diehard Tyler Perry fans, Madea's Witness Protection has all the family values you're used to from a Tyler Perry film. All it's missing is Tyler Perry.