Let’s take the most obvious question first, why is a suburban white man even watching a “Madea” movie? Honestly, I love them. They’re funny, poignant, well acted and generally contain a good nessage. Sure they’re also ham-fisted, over the top, and pretty one note- which is in a way part if their charm. No one is saying Tyler Perry is making high art here, just telling good stories through a perspective that’s not widely seen.
Which is why “Madea’s Witness Protection” is sucha massive dissapointment on every level.
In this film, Eugene Levy and his rich Connecticut family (including newish bride played by Denise Richards and senile? mother played by Doris Roberts) have to go into witness protection after Levy is framed for a Ponzi Scheme (by Tom Arnold, for some reason). Levy’s lawyer, Perry’s Brian from previous films, decides to stash the family with his aunt Madea and father Joe (both also played by Perry). Culture clash based hilarity (Richards does yoga! The family doesn’t eat carbs! They’re white AND Jewish!) desperately tries to ensue. We’ve all seen variations on this idea in the past and this film does nothing new or different to it. If anything, it may help to end the genre.
For “originality” there are also 2 subplots that to varying degrees go absolutely nowhere. One is related to the main story in a complicated and ultimately pointless way, and the other is summarily dropped for no reason but manages to be vaguely racist first. Comedy!
The standard format for these films pushes the title character to the “B” plot.- Madea is rarely front and center. Perry knows a little bit of her goes a long, long way. However this film not only changes that format but tells us a story that we’ve seen before. Not only is it a rehash of every single Madea trope but every “fish out of water” trope is also poorly mined for laughs. The endgame even rips off another film so entirely that clips of that (better) film are shown AND DISCUSSED! It was like Perry was saying “see this famous, better movie? We’re going to do exactly that because if you liked it then you’ll like it now!” (This by the way is almost literally said) And you don’t. But not just because it’s dumb- which it is, in many ways, and it makes no sense- but because by the time it happens you’ve sat through about 2 hours of mind-numbing boredom disguised as set up for this ultimately terribly dull conclusion, you mostly just want to forget the whole thing and move on. In fact this movie is ALL set up. The resolution/end of the movie occur in the last 10 minutes. The rest is all “rising action.” If there was a true climax, I may have missed it as it went by too fast. *
I’m not saying that Perry needs to stick to his well-trod ground of a woman’s triumph over a domineering man (“Diary of a mad black woman”, “Madea’s family reunion”, “Why did I get married?”, and parts of several others) or the intracasies of a family meltdown (“The family that preys”, “Meet the Browns”, “Why did I get married, too?”, “I can do bad all by myself”, “Madea’s big happy family”, all of his TBS television shows). Branching out is good. And as evidenced by his, admittedly pretty lackluster TV shows he can DO comedy and there is humor in his stories. But his strength is bringing light to struggles we don’t see all the time. Being a voice for the voiceless is his forte. This film felt like an uninspired shameless cash grab. It had nothing new, nothing worthwhile, just cheap unfunny jokes that traded on the farcical nature of his most popular character. And while that character is fine in subplots and as comic foil, when she’s forced into “the real world” and made the focal point, she falls apart under the weight of her own nature-all joke and no heart. And the joke isn’t funny, it’s just tedious. F
*Come to think of it, few of Tyler Perry’s films actually end. They just sort of…stop. “I can do bad all by myself” is a truly egregious example of this as the film just breaks into a parade for NO REASON and then ends. At least “Madea’s Family Reunion” has the most over the top wedding EVER (seriously, women and WORKING PIANOS are literally hanging from the ceiling as DECORATIONS) to close out the story.