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Tyler Perry's Madea's Witness Protection

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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Charles de Foucauld: Born into an aristocratic family in Strasbourg, France, Charles was orphaned at the age of six, raised by his devout grandfather, rejected the Catholic faith as a teenager and joined the French army. Inheriting a great deal of money from his grandfather, Charles went to Algeria with his regiment, but not without his mistress, Mimi. <br /><br />When he declined to give her up, he was dismissed from the army. Still in Algeria when he left Mimi, Charles reenlisted in the army. Refused permission to make a scientific exploration of nearby Morocco, he resigned from the service. With the help of a Jewish rabbi, Charles disguised himself as a Jew and in 1883 began a one-year exploration that he recorded in a book that was well received. <br /><br />Inspired by the Jews and Muslims whom he met, Charles resumed the practice of his Catholic faith when he returned to France in 1886. He joined a Trappist monastery in Ardeche, France, and later transferred to one in Akbes, Syria. Leaving the monastery in 1897, Charles worked as gardener and sacristan for the Poor Clare nuns in Nazareth and later in Jerusalem. In 1901 he returned to France and was ordained a priest. <br /><br />Later that year Charles journeyed to Beni-Abbes, Morocco, intending to found a monastic religious community in North Africa that offered hospitality to Christians, Muslims, Jews, or people with no religion. He lived a peaceful, hidden life but attracted no companions. <br /><br />A former army comrade invited him to live among the Tuareg people in Algeria. Charles learned their language enough to write a Tuareg-French and French-Tuareg dictionary, and to translate the Gospels into Tuareg. In 1905 he came to Tamanrasset, where he lived the rest of his life. A two-volume collection of Charles' Tuareg poetry was published after his death. <br /><br />In early 1909 he visited France and established an association of laypeople who pledged to live by the Gospels. His return to Tamanrasset was welcomed by the Tuareg. In 1915 Charles wrote to Louis Massignon: “The love of God, the love for one’s neighbor…All religion is found there…How to get to that point? Not in a day since it is perfection itself: it is the goal we must always aim for, which we must unceasingly try to reach and that we will only attain in heaven.”   <br /><br />The outbreak of World War I led to attacks on the French in Algeria. Seized in a raid by another tribe, Charles and two French soldiers coming to visit him were shot to death on December 1, 1916. <br />Five religious congregations, associations, and spiritual institutes (Little Brothers of Jesus, Little Sisters of the Sacred Heart, Little Sisters of Jesus, Little Brothers of the Gospel and Little Sisters of the Gospel) draw inspiration from the peaceful, largely hidden, yet hospitable life that characterized Charles. He was beatified on November 13, 2005. American Catholic Blog You know, O my God, I have never desired anything but to love you, and I am ambitious for no other glory.

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