A movie so bad, it doesn’t even meet the standards of the Razzie Awards.
This is the first and (God willing) last Madea movie I will ever have to sit through. One of the biggest complaints lodged against Tyler Perry is his perpetuation of negative racial stereotypes. There is a lot to criticize here, but stereotyping is the least of his problems. Madea’s Witness Protection is a thoroughly unfunny film, full of poorly written characters wandering around a plot far better suited to 1970s urban sitcoms.
George Needleman (Eugene Levy, American Pie) is CFO of a charitable organization under investigation by the FBI. Unbeknownst to George, the organization is a Ponzi scheme laundering money for the mob. In order to get protection from the Feds and keep his family safe, George agrees to testify in court. Since all FBI safe houses have been compromised, federal prosecutor Brian Simmons (Tyler Perry, Diary of a Mad Black Woman) believes the home of his aunt Madea (also Tyler Perry) is the perfect place for the Needleman family to hide. Because they’d be safer with Madea than they would be with the Feds?! Right…
I’m not so thin skinned I can’t enjoy a film whose characters represent cultural stereotypes. When done right, movies like this can be incredibly funny (see Blazing Saddles). On the other hand, Madea’s Witness Protection is such an unbelievably bad film the stereotypes come off as crude and thoughtless. Perry is listed as the sole writer of the script, and maybe that’s where the biggest problem lies. He might need a co-writer who can rein him in, advising him that nearly two hours worth of one liners might not be such a great idea. The Madea character isn’t likable, delivering her dialogue as if every sentence is a punch line and she’s waiting for the rim shot. It makes no difference whether she’s alone on screen or with other characters, because Madea doesn’t talk with people, she talks at them…loudly. Every word is meant to illicit a laugh and every joke more embarrassing than the last.
In addition to Brian (emotionless and wooden) and Madea (loud and obnoxious), Perry also plays Father Joe, the most interesting character in the cast and the one most likely to say something funny. Needless to say, his acting skills are severely limited, making it hard for him to pull off one role let alone Eddie Murphy-like multiples. Say what you will about his recent film choices, but Murphy was and is a skillful comedian and a fine fine actor. It’s not enough to be a little bit funny, you have to be able to convince the audience these are living breathing characters, something Perry hasn’t mastered yet.
One of the most irritating aspects about Madea is the way she greets people with her now-infamous “Heller” instead of hello. You see, Madea is southern, and in Perry’s world, all old southern women welcome people this way. It’s meant to be a cute character quirk, instead it feels forced and grates on the nerves almost as much as Steve Urkel’s tiresome “Did I do that?”
All that said, the award for “Most Embarrassing Scene” goes to Denise Richards (Starship Troopers), who plays Kate, George’s wife. After receiving some foolish advice from Madea on how to handle her step-daughter by speaking her mind, Kate uses the advice on her husband instead. Richards does her best to sound like the sassy Madea, slipping into a bad southern drawl with a heavy Black dialect, humiliating and embarrassing anyone and everyone in a five mile radius.
Eugene Levy is almost as bad, his acting is over the top and performance spastic. As the buffoonish George, he is merely the idiot White guy foil to Madea — an incompetent husband and father whose family is saved thanks to their Black benefactor. Doris Roberts (Everybody Loves Raymond) is George’s Alzheimer inflicted mother. In one scene this talented actress is reduced to wandering the screen stammering the word Negro over and over. Why? Because she is so out of it, she can’t communicate that she merely wants to go to the local church and hear Negro Spirituals. Funny, huh?
George has two kids, son Howie (Devan Leos) and spoiled rotten daughter Cindy (Danielle Campbell). Both are shallow stereotypes of a different sort. Howie is a heavy-set, not too bright kid constantly harassed by his bitchy sister, who hates her stepmother and resents her father. Yawn…haven’t seen this before. When Madea wants to teach the spoiled girl a lesson, she tells her a horrible lie about her family and Voila! Just like that Cindy realizes the error of her ways, suddenly transforming into a loving daughter and big sister. The scene takes about five minutes and smacks of a poorly crafted sitcom…as does the entirety of Madea’s Witness Protection.
Presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, Lionsgate’s transfer highlights those colorful giant dresses that Madea wears. The Dolby 5.1 Surround track so good that I was able to hear every bad joke the film had to offer. Bonus features include four short featurettes in which the cast sings the praises of Tyler Perry’s genius. It’s possible these actors were forced to say these things at gunpoint from someone off camera.
I’m baffled as to why Tyler Perry is a successful writer/director/producer. If Madea’s Witness Protection is any indication, this brotha just ain’t funny.
Heller, this is Guilty.
Madea’s Witness Protection (DVD)
2012, Lionsgate, 115 minutes, PG-13 (2012)
VIDEO: 1.78:1 AUDIO: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English), Doly Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish) SUBTITLES: English (SDH), Spanish
EXTRAS: Featurettes ACCOMPLICES: IMDB