Madea, the familiar, frequently mixed-up, but mostly moral force of nature in a muumuu, has one of her weaker outings in the laboriously titled "Tyler Perry's Madea's Witness Protection" (Lionsgate).
Perhaps the formula is spent. Certainly, the feisty old gal—writer-director Perry himself, of course, in drag—has lost much of her comic impact, even when she's applying seemingly undiminished physical impact to get her points across.
This time around, the set-up is that Madea is sheltering a white family because her nephew Brian (also Perry), an Atlanta district attorney, has asked her to help them.
George Needleman (Eugene Levy), it seems, has for years been the innocent front man for a corporate Ponzi scheme connected to organized crime. Facing fraud charges on a Bernard Madoff scale and threatened by the mobsters as well, George needs a place to hide. What better spot, thinks Brian, than the house of his Aunt Madea?
There, George is joined in seclusion by wife Kate (Denise Richards), batty mother Barbara (Doris Roberts) and disrespectful son and daughter Howie (Devan Leos) and Cindy (Danielle Campbell).
Madea's initial reluctance in the face of Joe's plan is tempered by the $4,000 a month she will receive for her hospitality.
The massive crime, we learn, has even touched nearby, since Jake (Romeo Miller), the son of Pastor Nelson (John Amos), invested the church's mortgage fund in one of the scheme's front companies, losing it all in the fallout.
Perry doesn't traffic in the tasteless racial humor his scenario might suggest. Instead, he sticks to the broader—and well-worn—theme of the cultural shock that ensues when stuffy Caucasians mingle with earthy black folks.
Madea, as always, sums up the obvious: "How do you expect me to hide five white people in a neighborhood that don't even have white cats or white cars? They'll stick out like me at a Republican convention. Do I look like I likes Newt Ginger?"
Trademark Perry themes of respect for parents, adherence to one's religious beliefs and self-confidence carry the day. Madea advises the terrified Needleman, "I don't let no one feel sorry for themselves in this house." And the happy ending rushes in before you (or Madea) can proclaim, "Hallelujer!"
The film contains occasional slapstick violence as well as fleeting crass language and drug references. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
Kurt Jensen is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.
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