Tyler Perry’s work and I have, in the past, gotten along about as well as a chronic ulcer patient and a plateful of chili dogs. But today, I get another go-round to see if things have gotten any better thanks to the folks at Lions Gate, who sent out a copy of “Madea’s Witness Protection” for us to review.
Once again, we join the most popular cantankerous old lady since Estelle Getty, Madea, as she does exactly what the title implies. “Madea’s Witness Protection” provides witness protection for a Wall Street CFO who’s found himself set to take the fall in a Ponzi scheme of Bernie Madoff proportions orchestrated by no less than the Mafia itself.
Madea gets the chance to play hostess to the CFO and his family, but discovers that there’s plenty wrong with this bunch, sufficiently so that she wants them out of her house for good. Thus, in the way only Madea can, she takes on the mantle of wealthy socialite, and goes forth to infiltrate the Mafia, get the money back, and get the CFO’s family back to where they belong, as in , out of her hair. Along the way, she’s going to try and fix things as only she can.
The good news here–and it’s amazing to launch into good news so early in the proceedings–is that this sucker is spectacularly well-cast. They got Eugene Levy to play the CFO. They got Tom Arnold to play his boss. This is, at least in its opening minutes, a delightful combination of titles, and watches a lot like “American Pie’s Colossal Investment Scam”. Madea doesn’t even figure into things until the first quarter is clear.
And then, about halfway in, Tyler Perry does something that’s downright reprehensible. He takes a comic virtuoso like Eugene Levy, the man who has made hundreds laugh in a variety of movies, and he turns him into a foil for more of that classic Tyler Perry ultra-concentrated melodrama. Watching Eugene Levy trembling on the verge of tears was a disaster unlike anything I’ve seen in a long time. Thankfully, it doesn’t last long, but in that moment, it’s frankly a disaster.
Though I have to admit, watching Madea deal with the TSA at the airport is something of a hoot. And there are more laughs than normal in this round, which is a great advancement for Tyler Perry, who normally parades sufficient drama through his titles for any five normal films.
“Madea’s Witness Protection” is one of Tyler Perry’s better films. There’s no two ways about that. Admittedly, that’s only saying so much, but there’s still no denying that, when he wants to, he can bring in the funny like nobody’s business and make it stick. Now, if he could just apply that particular lesson to the rest of his work, maybe we’d all be able to enjoy it a bit more.