Tyler Perry's Madea's Witness Protection
Directed by Tyler Perry. Starring Tyler Perry, Eugene Levy, Denise Richards, Doris Roberts, Romeo Miller, Tom Arnold, John Amos, Danielle Campbell, Devan Leos. (2012, PG-13, 114 min.)
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., July 6, 2012
He's not only the producer, writer, and director of this film – just as with most of his other movies – but Tyler Perry also plays three roles in his latest Madea outing. It's not a mark of pure vanity: This indefatigable maestro earns the right to include his name in the title – as has been his custom with most of his previous movies. It's a dubious distinction, however. Hitching himself to Madea's popular apron strings may be a wise business decision since the character brings in droves of fans, but it also means that Perry must take ownership of his movies' slipshod filmmaking techniques as well as their perpetuation of racial stereotypes.
Perry steers his latest film toward some racial crossover by forcing Madea – the towering, take-no-guff matriarch played by Perry in drag – to stretch beyond her own family and African-American community for the subjects of her barbs. The veteran comic actor Eugene Levy plays a Bernie Madoff knockoff, who is the unwitting CFO of a financial fund that has been running a Ponzi scheme. While working to uncover the fraud, this money manager and his dysfunctional family go into witness protection in the home of the Atlanta prosecutor's aunt Madea. (Perry also plays the prosecutor and Madea's grizzled brother, Uncle Joe.) The takeaway? Them white folks are sho ’nuff crazy.
Almost more grating than Perry's modern minstrelsy, however, is his sloppiness as a filmmaker. Madea lifts grocery bags from her shopping cart to her car trunk as though they contained nothing weightier than dryer lint and then allows them to flop over sideways before closing the lid. Patently false moments such as this abound thoughout this overlong film. The outtake reel that accompanies the closing credits even includes an extraneous shot of Charlie “always good for publicity” Sheen (who is not in the movie) mugging for the camera while presumably visiting the set to see his ex, co-star Denise Richards. The film is slapdash entertainment not meant to be further contemplated after leaving the theatre.