Though this is the seventh (SEVENTH!) installment in Tyler Perry’s Madea franchise, it was my first introduction to the character and for that matter, any Tyler Perry movie.
I’ve seen and heard enough to know what to expect, plus I’ve watched several movies starring Eddie Murphy in which he plays multiple characters including an old, large, sassy woman sooo…I went in to Madea’s Witness Protection with pretty low expectations. Still, I was a little hopeful when I entered the packed theater. I thought, it’s got to be at least a little funny if all these people keep coming back Madea movie after Madea movie. Plus, before it started there was a trailer for an upcoming film called Pitch Perfect.
Madea can’t be worse than this right?
George Needledick (Eugene Levy) is the CFO of a Wall Street investment firm. What? Oh, I’m sorry, it’s not Needledick, it’s Needleman, but you get the idea, he’s a dorky white guy (if the fact that it’s Eugene Levy didn’t clue you in enough). George shows up to work one day and finds his entire office in a panic, frantically shredding documents. Turns out the charity division that he heads is all just a big ol Ponzi scheme and the Feds are moving in.
George, along with the audience learns all of this from his slimy boss (Tom Arnold, picking up a quick check), who informs George in a bad-guy reveals his entire evil plan revelation that George has been set up to be the fall guy. George maintains his innocence and agrees to cooperate with authorities. This angers the mob (yeah, they’re involved too).
After George receives a threatening gift from the mafia, the federal agent in charge of the case and saintly good guy, Brian (Tyler Perry) decides to put him and his family into a witness protection program and relocate them somewhere no one would ever think to look for them – his aunt Madea’s (Tyler Perry–did I really need to do that?). Oh the hilarity of George and his ultra-white privileged family (Denise Richards as his WIFE, children Danielle Campbell and Devon Leos, and Doris Roberts as his senile mother) moving in with that feisty Madea!
I kinda, sorta laughed at a Golden Girls joke.
Okay, so clearly I’m not the intended audience. (I mean “Tyler Perry fans.”)
And there is an audience for these movies, as I’m sure the box office reports will prove once again. The crowd at the screening I attended sure thought it was funny and even applauded at the end when (SPOILER ALERT!) everything is resolved and everyone dances in church.
It’s pretty safe to assume Tyler Perry cranks these movies out in his sleep or possibly makes them up as he goes along (it’s evident that nearly all of Madea’s lines are ad-libbed, and by evident I mean Perry stammering while trying to think of his next witty insulting line.) But why wouldn’t he? Since getting the ultimate endorsement from Oprah (can we please stop looking to Oprah now that she’s done an in-depth interview with the Kardashians?) everything he touches turns to money. So I’m sure there will be many more Madea films for fans to enjoy and non-fans to avoid.
I really did give it chance, I swear. But the opening scene’s dialogue was so on-the-nose, telly, and poorly acted (or directed, not sure which. Probably both. ) that I quickly gave up. The scene I am referring to is George and Kate (Denise Richards) discussing George’s missing his son’s baseball game.
It went something like this:
George: “Honey, I have to go into to office.”
Kate: “But you promised your son you would be at his baseball game today.”
George: “I know my son Howie was looking forward to it, but I have to work.
Kate: “You are never around. Your son needs his father.”
Yeah. Complete with hand gestures and pouting by Richards to drive home the fact that she’s frustrated. The whole movie is like that. But then Perry is writer, director, producer, and plays three roles. When you’re that busy, some things need to fall by the wayside, and in this case, those things are subtlety and context. It’s as if Perry doesn’t trust his audience so he needs to over-explain everything, including what a Ponzi scheme is.
The above beer was for the writing and directing. This one is for the acting.
Eugene Levy has been playing the same character his entire career and phoning it in more and more with each movie. This performance was the equivalent of a voicemail. Nah, scratch that, you have to press buttons to make voicemails urgent and stuff like that takes work. This was more like a text. ” ”
Denise Richards has never been known as an actor extraordinaire, but I remember thinking she was decent enough in films like Wild Things, but here? She was more believable as a scientist in that James Bond movie than as Eugene Levy’s loving wife. If she played a gold-digging trophy wife it wouldn’t be as bad, but that’s not the case here . In one scene she even shouts at him, “I WANT SEX!” (Sweet dreams with those mental images, folks!) In another she imitates Madea—eh , I’ll give her that one, she gave it her all.
Doris Roberts pops up every now and then to say something racist and is involved in a strange subplot that suggests George may or may not be the product of a one-night stand between her and Joe (Madea’s brother, also played by Tyler Perry). It’s a pretty thankless role that I’m guessing Cloris Leachman turned down.
Perry himself is of-course over-the-top as Madea and Joe. (Which, once more, people ate up.) The character of Brian is written as the world’s most perfect human and it’s as this character that you can see the smugness on Perry’s face as he obviously thinks this movie is hilarious with Brian’s reactions to all the zaniness.
Romeo Miller (formerly known as Lil’ Romeo) plays a preacher’s son (because, naturally, there’s a religious subplot) who has invested the church’s mortgage fund into the Ponzi scheme and who seems to also suffer from Tourette’s syndrome. He’s laughingly bad. Especially when he “angrily” confronts Levy’s character. Devon Leos as the Needle
dicksmans’ son Howie (the one George neglects) reeks of the Disney channel. Danielle Campbell, as spoiled, bitchy daughter Cindy delivers the film’s best performance. That’s not really saying much, but that’s all you can really hope for.
Madea is introduced in a scene in which she leaves a grocery store on the first of the month (Welfare joke!), gets into her car and is held at gunpoint by a robber in the backseat. She proceeds to teach the young thug a lesson by yelling at him while driving erratically and endangering other drivers. Are we supposed to be rooting for her? Because I was rooting for the guy with the gun.
I don’t get it. This character confuses me. Is Madea supposed to be endearing? Because she’s kind of a hateful c-u next Tuesday. Later in the film Madea tells snotty Cindy that her family has been killed, going into great detail as the young girl cries and cries. When Cindy’s family walks in a minute later, she is instantly cured of all teenage angst and hugs them while Madea smiles to herself at a job well done. What?!
We also learn at that at one point in Madea’s life that she was both a stripper and a prostitute. I didn’t need to know this information. Was this backstory mentioned in past Madea movies or was the prostitute thing just to set up a later Pretty Woman makeover montage?
Yes, I said Pretty Woman makeover montage. Cue the Roy Orbison.
The final act shamelessly rips off Ghost with a convoluted, tacked-on, and ridiculous resolution to the whole charities bilked out of their money thing and also provides many “laughs” with Madea flying on an airplane and dealing with TSA.
It’s been nearly two hours. Where’s the church? Is it over yet?
I’ve already used up my six beers and didn’t even get a chance to go into the story’s inconsistencies, the unresolved subplots (So the mob just gave up trying to find them? So is George Joe’s son? So Lil’ Romeo will continue to have an acting career?) , and have I mentioned it’s just not funny at all? Was there a moral? I guess if a film ends with everyone dancing at a church, that means it does?
Bottom line: If you liked the past movies, you’ll probably like this one. I didn’t like this one so I’m sure I probably won’t like any of the past movies. Either way, Tyler Perry will make more money than both of us.
And you too, Eugene Levy.
Bonus Drinking Game:
Take a Drink: every time someone says “Ponzi scheme.”
Take a Drink: every time a white person sings badly.
Take a Drink: every time someone says something racist and Madea’s eyes bug out.
Take a Drink: every time you try to remember if Denise Richards could ever act.
Take a Drink: whenever you wonder how movies like this even get made.
Take a Drink: whenever anyone refers to yoga as “Yoda.”
Take a Shot: every time you get an unwanted mental image of Eugene Levy and Denise Richards having sex.
Chug: during every church scene.
Last Call: “Hilarious” outtakes of Tyler Perry improvising as Madea. Oh and also, #winning.