Susan Granger’s review of “Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Witness Protection” (Lionsgate)
In this seventh installment in Tyler Perry’s highly successful comedy franchise, the saga continues as Madea’s federal prosecutor nephew needs a place to hide hapless George Needleman (Eugene Levy), a Wall Street CFO who didn’t realize that his investment firm was running a mob-backed Ponzi scheme that’s been laundering money and cheating charities for years, leaving George marked for death by the Malone crime syndicate.
So George, his trophy, yoga-loving second wife Kate (Denise Richards), sullen teenage daughter Cindy (Danielle Campbell), overweight son Howie (Devan Leos) and semi-senile mother Barbara (Doris Roberts) move into skeptical Aunt Madea’s Atlanta home. Explaining their presence to a neighbor, Madea identifies them as cousins who lost all the pigmentation in their skin overnight.
As the plot evolves, it introduces Jake (Romeo Miller), a pastor’s son who lost his church’s $114,000 mortgage fund after investing in the same scam that framed George but is unable to break the bad news to his father (John Amos).
Versatile New Orleans native Tyler Perry not only plays many parts, including matronly Madea, but also writes, directs and produces his own films and his TV show “House of Payne” is still a hit on TBS. His trash-talking, quick-tempered Madea actually started out as a supporting character in his 2005 melodrama “Diary of a Mad Black Woman” and has grown in popularity, if not in girth, ever since. The inspiration for this installment came when Perry was dining with friends who suggested that the best punishment for Bernie Madoff would be to have him move in with Madea, and this is the first Madea film not based on one of Perry’s successful plays.
“I have no idea where Madea is going to go next,” Perry confesses. “I was thinking of having her go to the White House and baby-sit Sasha and Malia Obama.”
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Witness Protection” is frantic 5, filled with throwaway gags and self-conscious scenes, including Richards’ ex-husband Charlie Sheen trying to grope Madea during the blooper credits.