Review of Madea's Witness Protection

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Tyler Perry once again stars in, directs and produces this 2012 comedy/drama which he wrote for the Madea franchise. It is the seventh film in the comedy series based on his most popular title character. When Wall Street investment banker George Needleman (Eugene Levy) is set up as the linchpin of his company's mob-backed Ponzi scheme, he and his family must be relocated to a place no one will think to look for them: Aunt Madea's southern home. Denise Richards stars as Needleman's wife, Kate.
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Movie Review: "Tyler Perry's Madea's Witness Protection" --

Rating: PG-13 (some crude sexual remarks, brief drug references)
Length: 114 minutes
Release Date: June 29, 2012
Directed by: Tyler Perry
Genre: Comedy
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Since 2002, Tyler Perry's screen alter ego, Mabel "Madea" Simmons, has been in a dozen films and a few episodes of television. During that time, Madea has had a family reunion, a class reunion, and gone to jail. This time around, Madea is joining the Witness Protection Program, but not in the way you might think. Instead of being the person in hiding, she is using her Atlanta home as a safe house for an alleged financial criminal.

The movie begins with George Needleman (the always hilarious Eugene Levy), who has carved himself a nice niche as the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of a charity. The charity was started by the huge Wall Street firm Lockwise Industries, which has billions of dollars in assets and seemingly wanted to do some good.

"Seemingly" is the operative word here, because it turns out that Lockwise Industries is really just a gigantic Ponzi scheme. The firm is basically stealing from all of its clients, which is highly illegal. Unfortunately for George, the top executives are very crafty and have a plan in mind should they ever get caught. When things go bad they frame George for the scheme, leaving him high and dry.

The problem is, George is innocent, and Brian (Perry again), a nephew of Madea's, knows it. He works as a federal prosecutor who was brought in to investigate the Lockwise Industries case. After doing his due diligence, Joe finds out that only 12 of the 88 charities initiated by the firm actually provided aid to people. The rest just funnel money back to the firm. Then Joe discovers that not only was the firm a Ponzi scheme, it was also a front for some very dangerous mobsters. That means that George, his pampered wife Kate (Denise Richards), and his kids Cindy (Danielle Campbell) and Lucas (Josh Joslin) are in danger.

Brian hurriedly retrieves the family from their posh Hamptons digs and somehow convinces his boss to let them stay in Atlanta with his Aunt Madea. This is where the audience really has to just let go of reality. The chances that a New York City federal prosecutor would allow a star witness to stay with someone's aunt are fairly slim. There are plenty of safe houses in the Witness Protection Program where the family could have stayed. If you are willing to let go of this contrived plot device, the rest of the movie is smooth, funny sailing.

Once ensconced in Madea's basement, the family doesn't seem too happy. They are used to luxury and creature comforts. Madea's comfortable but somewhat sparse (by their standards, anyways) home isn't to their liking. As fans of the previous Madea movies would expect, they get a tongue lashing from the matriarch, who takes a no-nonsense approach to pretty much everything in life.

As Madea and George begin to bond while he awaits his chance to testify against his old bosses, the film begins to show the sweetness at its core. Though it is primarily a comedy, the film does have a few dramatic moments, which is in keeping with the usual Madea script. There are also a few genuinely laugh-out-loud moments when George finds out some unexpected news about his heritage. By the end, Madea seems to have warmed up to George, who she was only housing because she gets paid a hefty $4,000 per month that the family stays with her.

There are a handful of Madea rants, which fans of the franchise will enjoy. There aren't as many as usual, though. This could be by coincidence, or maybe Perry is just shaking things up and trying something new. Another difference between this and previous installments is that the first act of the movie is spent setting up George's predicament. Madea, although her name is in the title of the film, doesn't become a factor until the second act of the movie. This is surprising, but not a bad thing. It just makes the moments she is on screen all the more funny.

After the last movie in the franchise, "Madea's Big Happy Family," there were critical grumbles that perhaps Perry had run out of ideas. Maybe the actor/writer/director needed to move on from his trademark muse and try something else. He does try a few new things here, which is why "Tyler Perry's Madea's Witness Protection" works.