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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Tyler Perry's Madea's Witness Protection

By
Kurt Jensen
Source: Catholic News Service

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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Jacopone da Todi: Jacomo, or James, was born a noble member of the Benedetti family in the northern Italian city of Todi. He became a successful lawyer and married a pious, generous lady named Vanna. 
<p>His young wife took it upon herself to do penance for the worldly excesses of her husband. One day Vanna, at the insistence of Jacomo, attended a public tournament. She was sitting in the stands with the other noble ladies when the stands collapsed. Vanna was killed. Her shaken husband was even more disturbed when he realized that the penitential girdle she wore was for his sinfulness. On the spot, he vowed to radically change his life. </p><p>He divided his possessions among the poor and entered the Secular Franciscan Order (once known as the Third Order). Often dressed in penitential rags, he was mocked as a fool and called Jacopone, or "Crazy Jim," by his former associates. The name became dear to him. </p><p>After 10 years of such humiliation, Jacopone asked to be a member of the Order of Friars Minor(First Order). Because of his reputation, his request was initially refused. He composed a beautiful poem on the vanities of the world, an act that eventually led to his admission into the Order in 1278. He continued to lead a life of strict penance, declining to be ordained a priest. Meanwhile he was writing popular hymns in the vernacular. </p><p>Jacopone suddenly found himself a leader in a disturbing religious movement among the Franciscans. The Spirituals, as they were called, wanted a return to the strict poverty of Francis. They had on their side two cardinals of the Church and Pope Celestine V. These two cardinals, though, opposed Celestine’s successor, Boniface VIII. At the age of 68, Jacopone was excommunicated and imprisoned. Although he acknowledged his mistake, Jacopone was not absolved and released until Benedict XI became pope five years later. He had accepted his imprisonment as penance. He spent the final three years of his life more spiritual than ever, weeping "because Love is not loved." During this time he wrote the famous Latin hymn, <i>Stabat Mater</i>. </p><p>On Christmas Eve in 1306 Jacopone felt that his end was near. He was in a convent of the Poor Clares with his friend, Blessed John of La Verna. Like Francis, Jacopone welcomed "Sister Death" with one of his favorite songs. It is said that he finished the song and died as the priest intoned the Gloria from the midnight Mass at Christmas. From the time of his death, Brother Jacopone has been venerated as a saint.</p> American Catholic Blog By immersing our lives in the rhythm of the season, charity can flood our souls and fill us with the happiness for which we were created. We awake Christmas morning prepared to celebrate the birth of our Savior not as a memory but as a profound experience of God’s redemptive love.

 
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