REVIEW: Madea's Witness Protection Proves It's Time for Tyler Perry to Hang Up the Dress

Movieline Score: 4

With Tyler Perry gradually segueing toward non-drag leading man status with Good Deeds and the upcoming James Patterson thriller Alex Cross, his latest appearance as the sassy, wisdom-dispensing matriarch of the title in Madea's Witness Protection has an aura of fatigued reluctance to it, as does the film itself. Perry mentioned to Movieline that while he planned to keep with the character as long as there was demand from audiences, he "would be pretty good with passing it on," and certainly in her franchise's seventh installment Mabel Simmons, better known as Madea, seems ready to do the same, unable to summon the usual levels of outrageousness as she once again plays magical mender of other people's problems.

In this case, those people are the Needleman family, who are forced to leave New York after George Needleman (Eugene Levy) gets set up as the fall guy after discovering his company has been operating on a Bernie Madoff-style Ponzi scheme that's resulted in the ripping off of multiple charities. The mafia is also somehow involved, and the case for whatever reason has to be tried in Atlanta -- all contortions needed to land five wealthy white people in the house Madea shares with her brother Joe (Perry) after her nephew Brian (also Perry), who's prosecuting the case, offers her $4,000 a month to keep them as part of a temporary witness protection arrangement.

By the time the film arrives at this setup -- which it does laboriously, forcing Levy to struggle to carry the action for a good while by sputtering and acting flustered -- you know exactly the type of humor that's in store. The film dutifully works the cultural/class differences between the Simmonses and the Needlemans, with Madea referring to the morning routine of wife Kate (Denise Richards) as "yoda" instead of yoga and Kate bemusedly looking over the butter-heavy Southern breakfast Madea prepares and observing, "It's a lot of carbs." George's senile mother Barbara (Doris Roberts) turns out to have had a past with Joe, a storyline that largely exists to allow Joe to explore the oblivious George's possible biracial heritage by asking him if he can swim, if he likes soul music and whether he prefers a "butt" or a "booty."

But most of the scenarios Madea's Witness Protection sets up don't actually come to much of a punchline. Brian talks about how Madea's "packing," which makes her a good choice to protect the Needlemans, but there's no armed stand-off between her and mafia goons or anyone else. Madea rips into Brian for how impossible it'll be for her to hide white people in her all-black neighborhood, but we hardly see them step outside, much less struggle to fit in. And after setting up teenage daughter Cindy (Danielle Campbell) as a massively sulky, entitled brat, the film preps us for a rewarding Madea smackdown that, when it comes, is practically mild. I, frankly, was hoping for at least some hair-pulling.

Scenes run loose and long in the film, up to and including the should-be climax in which Madea gets on a plane for the first time and travels to New York with George and neighborhood boy Jake (Romeo Miller), who invested his father's church's mortgage money with George's company. The trip turns out to have only been included to allow us to see Madea navigate airport security and nervously order a lot of drinks on the flight -- neither of which is a memorable spectacle -- allowing the film to end on such an anticlimactic note the cast comes across as in a hurry to move on to future gigs. As is, apparently, Perry, whose entertainment empire continues to impress in its scale, but who also seems ready to hang up the giant dress and grey wig and move on to something -- anything -- new.

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  • I am an avid Tyler Perry follower and would like to say to the critics, if you don't get the point of his movies by now maybe you're not as astute as you think. Tyler's movies use satire to make comments on some of the ills in our society especially the disrespect of young people towards their parents. This movie was creative and uniquely different from previous Madea movies. I found it refreshing and hilariously entertaining. I'm not sure what frame of reference the critics are using, but if they don't understand what they're watching, they may need to ask someone who does.

  • B.L. says:

    Damned if you do, damned if you don't! If there would have been a Madea-mafia standoff, for example, then reviewers would have said Madea was being her typical, predictable, and brash self .. no win! If she would have gone into her usual advice-giving, wisdom-giving self, she would have been too polemical/political ... no win! I'm glad Tyler doesn't gauge his output on reviewers' flakiness. He'd become as schizophrenic as they are ... tsk!

    • Olivia says:

      This movie was totally on target it expose so much beauty and desire within each plot. We certainly saw the day to day life of busy business men ,yet Madea touched of class displayed an easement that we sometimes time..The critic follow certain bylaws which has really become old, so to them I say step it up a notch or two.I certainly understood every plot that was delivered with clarity and joy.Madea is instrumental with bundles of talents and I applause her / him for the effort.

  • Shane says:

    Welcome to America people where we freely and openly judge other people based on our personal beliefs. Hey, lets all bash Tyler Perry because he is successful. What a true waste of time reading this review. Allison actually gets paid for this? Oh well, opinions are like @ssholes, everybody has one.

  • SallyinChicago says:

    I find Mr. Perry's movie writing and direction pedestrian, worthy of a low-level C level TV show.

  • Jamal says:

    Come one people lets just call it what it is, a bad movie. all directors make a bad movie from time to time Tyler perry is def not an exception.

  • tamara says:

    The movie was bad. And I'm a Tyler Perry fan, truth hurts but its still true. Get up dust yourself off Mr. Perry and write your next project, I'm ready to support you.

  • Gigi's daughter says:

    Sounds like a bit of jealousy to me... if you are bashing Madea/Tyler after all of the movies we've seen him make, maybe the joke is on you.

  • taylor615 says:

    How much money did romeo miller lose in the movie?

  • BRGIRL says:

    I absolutely love Tyler Perry movies but this one was off to me... I wanted so bad for this movie to b good but it was my least favorite. Its not funny or anything just not good. Romeo is a horrible actor and the part where madea goes to New York was the worst part of the movie to me. It lack everything so sad bc I love TP but I didn't care at all for this movie 🙁