George and Kate Needleman (Eugene Levy and Denise Richards) are forced into Witness Protection after George is framed for his company’s Ponzi scheme. George is dumbfounded to learn his company took millions of investor’s dollars from the charities he thought they were funding. Turns out, the majority of those “charities” were money laundering fronts for a mob family, who are now after CFO George Needleman.
In an effort to sort out the puzzling pile of paperwork that was left unshredded by the company, prosecutor Brian Simmons (Tyler Perry) cuts a deal with Needleman. In exchange for his help unraveling the confusing accounts, he promises protection and hides the Needleman family in the safest place he can think of.
America’s favorite 6’5” gun-wielding grandma agrees to host the family out of Christian charity . . . the kind of goodwill that comes with a high payday. Mabel Simmons’ (a.k.a. Madea’s) generosity is tested when Simmons escorts a Caucasian family of five through the African-American neighborhood into her home.
The Needleman clan includes George’s bratty daughter, Cindy (Danielle Campbell), Kate’s introverted son, Howie (Devan Leos), and George’s mother, Barbara (Doris Roberts), who is suffering from dementia.
Perry’s screenplay flirts with racial stereotypes when Madea warns Kate Needleman she shouldn’t be on the porch in the evening and when Joe walks George through a list of “white and black stereotypes.” Perry successfully teases both races without being offensive–an order as tall as Madea herself. When Barbara claims to hear Negros from her bedroom and refers to Madea as her old maid, George and Kate uncomfortably try to silence her and this is where the beauty of Perry’s writing comes in.
Although Madea can be crass and hot-tempered when provoked, her character is multidimensional. Understanding that Barbara is lost in her mind somewhere in the past, she corrects Barbara, saying they are African-American, but at the same time, relieves the embarrassment of the Needleman’s as she assures them that what Barbara is hearing are Negro spirituals.
The sound of voices is coming from the church. The preacher’s son, Jake (Romeo), invested the church’s savings through George’s firm. When the company went bust, the church’s mortgage money went with it, introducing the secondary plot of the movie. Jake, desperate to regain the thousands lost, joins forces with Needleman and Madea to recoup the money.
While there are several laughs, there were a couple of disappointments with Perry’s tenth film.
First, the exaggerated facial expressions, timed lines, and rehearsed gestures from Levy and Richards would have novice movie-goers assuming this was the actors’ first film. Roberts’ interpretation of a woman losing her mind was painful to watch.
Second, the build-up for Madea’s outburst on the snotty stepdaughter leaves much to be desired when Madea’s “lesson” is G-rated by her standards. Although Madea’s character acts as comedic relief, her beloved outbursts became tamer as the movie went on.
As expected from Tyler Perry, the movie includes several subplots focusing on restoring a dysfunctional household into a loving family. If you’re a Madea fan, Witness Protection will keep you laughing with unexpected quips, but might be worth waiting for it to come out on DVD.
The Christian Worldview
Witness Protection is rated PG-13 and worth every bit of the rating. The cursing isn’t any rougher than one might expect, but the in-your-face sexual references make for an uncomfortable movie experience if pre-teens are in the room and inappropriate for children.
A theme in the movie is transitioning the broken family into a loving one. The daughter is allowed to be disrespectful, jump starting Madea’s interference. She has a heart-to-heart with the stepmom, instructing her to stand up for herself and not allow the disrespect to continue. George Needleman realizes his first priority is his family and regrets his workaholic ways.