Seemingly nothing will stop Tyler Perry. His second movie released in the first six months of 2012, Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Witness Protection looks on paper like the multi-hyphenate may be trying something new. He’s never really been known to change his sensibilities from film to film, but casting comic legend Eugene Levy as your lead actor promises something different. That promise goes entirely undelivered.
Levy plays George Needleman, the CFO of a corporation that is about to be exposed as nothing more than a Ponzi scheme that stole millions from various charities. George knew nothing about the company’s crimes; he’s just the convenient fall guy. It turns out that the operation was also laundering money for the mob, so he agrees to help prosecutors build a case against the other executives and testify in court in exchange for going into hiding.
George packs up his much younger second wife (Denise Richards), his bitter teenage daughter (Danielle Campbell), his neglected younger son (Devan Leos), and his dementia-addled mother (Doris Roberts), and together they travel to the safe house that Brian (Tyler Perry), the case’s lead prosecutor, has chosen for them. However, that safe house is really the home of Brian’s tell-it-like-it-is aunt Madea (also played by Perry); apparently, this is the only dwelling in the entire country where he feels they’ll be safe.
The family, already fracturing because of the normal pressures of life, get a big dose of real talk from Madea, who single-handedly, and in her own inimitably voluble style, saves them all from themselves. Meanwhile, George uncovers a way to prove what his former company was up to, but he needs a big hand from Madea in order to set everything right -- a plot point set into motion when one of the characters is watching Whoopi Goldberg in Ghost.
Any hope that Levy might bring his own impressive improvisational skills to this project is dashed in the first few minutes; as is always the case, Perry prefers huge exasperated faces and verbal bluster to actual dialogue, and Levy quickly gets swallowed up into the tired rhythms that have allowed Perry to sustain a career in the movie business.
Yet again, Tyler Perry shows no interest in challenging himself or his audience. Even with a welcome dose of fresh faces to play off of, he feels no compunction to deliver anything but another combination of ridiculous physical comedy, moralizing, cross-dressing, and gospel tunes. leave a comment --Perry Seibert