Many or most of Tyler Perry’s films have been lambasted by one critic or another, and his latest, Madea’s Witness Protection, has not been able to avoid at least a few hard critical knocks. I’d like to say the most recent in the Madea-featured franchise went out on a limb or featured the gut-punching laughs the rest of the movies are missing, but unfortunately, you’re going to have to add this one to the lengthier “miss” pile. The story itself is a fine enough set-up for a comedy, and especially one geared to Tyler Perry-as-Madea’s talents. A white, upperclass Jewish family finds themselves living with Madea (Tyler Perry) and company (also Tyler Perry) when they are enlisted into witness protection after the Needleman’s patriarch, George (Eugene Levy), is used as a pawn in a ponzi scheme. Of course, all of the Needleman’s are in need of some tough love, including unathletic son Howie (Devan Leos), selfish daughter Cindy (Danielle Campbell), and matriarch Kate (Denise Richards), who can’t parent the kids properly. As usual, Madea isn’t scared to speak her mind.
There’s plenty of “hellurs” and people getting “damn mad,” and if you’re mesmerized by Madea’s presence onscreen, you will get a hell of a lot of her in this film. It’s arguably a good thing, too; Perry’s characters—specifically Madea—are definitely the best idea the man has to offer. Since we get so much of Madea in Witness Protection, she’s actually calmer and wiser than usual. Despite one car chase and a few crass jokes, Madea is actually decently behaved compared to some of her other stints in Perry’s films.
The biggest problem with Madea’s Witness Protection is the story’s frame. You can have an uninspired story or a badly put together movie, but you really can’t have both to create a film that works. Madea’s Witness Protection doesn’t just feature a predictable fish out of water plot, it also plays out like a movie made over a decade ago—maybe even two. There’s one scene that features a noise like a record scratching onscreen to signify a no good shift in the mood, which simultaneously reminds me of a bad nineties sitcom segue and the really shitty DJ I was subjected to at Las Vegas’ Mirage Casino a few weeks ago. Madea’s a character that is a decade old, but the movie doesn’t have to feel as old as the character.
I take what I said in the former paragraph back. A film can have a tired story and a movie that lacks finesse and make it work, as long as it’s really fucking funny. Madea’s Witness Protection conceptually has some good jokes. Some of these even extrapolate out into amusing moments, the type that are induced by arguments heard through bedroom walls and misconstruing ‘wi-fi’ for ‘waffles.’ The problem is investing in the humor over the long haul. There’s some misses with the comedy, and some scenes that aren’t played out for humor as much as they are played out for ridiculousness. Madea’s Witness Protection is too careful to be a mess, but it just doesn’t all work.
Madea’s Witness Protection is very much a movie about making well-intentioned decisions to protect family values. The biggest champion of this is Madea herself, and if you are the type to buy in to her onscreen presence, Madea’s Witness Protection stands up against some of the other movies in Perry’s catalog extremely well. There are worse ways to spend an afternoon than seeing people learn to treat each other better while munching on a big bag of popcorn, but I still wouldn’t repeat the experience. It wouldn’t be a Tyler Perry movie without the man himself playing multiple characters, so, of course, the Blu-ray features a segment called “Tyler Perry: Multi Hats & Costumes,” which discusses Perry’s three characters in the movie, but also all of the other responsibilities Perry has in the film as a writer, director, and producer. Pretty much every cast member states “Perry knows what he wants,” and the segment features some great behind-the-scenes footage where Perry is playing Madea, and then suddenly reverts to his normal stance out of nowhere and barks “cut.”
“Thank Yup, Hellur: Impersonating Madea” looks more specifically at Madea, and “The Needlemans” obviously looks at the Jewish family staying in the Simmons' home and the fish out of water story in the flick. There are a few more short segments on the disc, and most of them end up taking a look at Madea or Tyler Perry in some manner or another. You can tell what respect the cast has for Perry’s work ethic in his films, and with the filming footage, it’s pretty easy to see, too. However, this is the type of film that’s primed for extra scenes and outtakes, and there are none of them with this set.
Unless you are super stoked about Ultraviolet technology or the digital copy, there’s certainly no reason to go with the Blu-ray for this release. The DVD might be a better bargain with Witness Protection, but you’ll have to roll with your conscience on this one and decide whether or not Madea has wormed her way into your heart.
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