Title: Madea’s Witness Protection
Director: Tyler Perry
Starring: Perry, Eugene Levy, Denise Richards, Doris Roberts, Danielle Campbell (‘Prom’), Devan Leos (‘L!fe Happens,’ TV’s ‘The Middle’), Romeo Miller (L’il Romeo), John Amos (TV’s ‘The West Wing’) and Tom Arnold
People often times become so focused on financially succeeding in life that they often times forget their families, and that they also need close, personal relationships to make their lives worthwhile. This important message is comedically brought to the attention of not only the characters, but the audience as well, in the new Tyler Perry film ‘Madea’s Witness Protection.’ The outspoken, highly opinionated but beloved title character isn’t afraid to let her thoughts about family bonding known, even to a rich, white, suburban Connecticut family, whose differing views she’s never come into contact with before.
‘Madea’s Witness Protection’ follows George Needleman (Eugene Levy), the successful CFO of Wall Street investment bank Lockwise Industries, who contends with his frustrated second wife, Kate (Denise Richards). She’s come to her limit caring for his senile mother, Barbara (Doris Roberts), who has openly stated her dislike for her. George and Kate also have to deal with his rebellious teenage daughter from his first marriage, Cindy (Danielle Campbell), and their young son, Howie (Devan Leos), who wishes his father was home more often. But that pales in comparison when George gets the shock of his life at work; he finds out from his co-worker Walter (Tom Arnold) that the company is running a Ponzi scheme, and he’s been set up to take the blame.
Brian (Perry), now a federal prosecutor in Atlanta, gets the task of placing the Needlemans in witness protection, after they received threats from the mob. So he decides to move the family in with his aunt Madea and father Joe (both also played by Perry). As Brian works to solve the case, Madea works to straighten the Needlemans out with her trademark tough love. Jake (Romeo Miller), the son of the pastor (John Amos) of Madea’s church, also decides to help in the case, after losing the money intended to pay off the church’s mortgage in an investment with Lockwise Industries.
While ‘Madea’s Witness Protection’ marks Perry’s sixth film to feature the title character in either a starring or supporting role, she still serves as both the comic relief and as the wise, inspirational matriarch. The filmmaker made a wise decision, however, to introduce a wealthy white family from the suburbs of Connecticut into Madea’s life in Atlanta. Madea comedically and fearlessly infuses her own brand of tough love into the Needlemans’ dysfunctional relationships, while also teaching them the importance of appreciating your family. She doesn’t hold back just because the Needlemans are a Jewish white family placed in a black neighborhood; she overcomes their racial differences to effectively help them overcome their problems.
‘Madea’s Witness Protection’ rightfully balances the emotional challenges the Needlemans are going through after George learns of the Ponzi scheme with Madea learning to adjust to their completely different outlook on life. The exploration of the Needlemans’ relationships helps them realize what’s truly important in life; they don’t need to be greedy or have extensive amounts of money, as long as they can save their family and spend more time together. Even though the Needlemans come from a different class and are a different race than Madea, they all also learn from her to be more respectful and appreciative of each other.
Even with the film’s serious underlying message, the cast of ‘Madea’s Witness Protection’ had good chemistry together, making fun of the differences between the different classes and races. Levy and Perry genuinely built a believable, comedic working relationship together as George and Madea. Since George isn’t a strong disciplinarian with his children, Madea speaks her mind that he should speak up for himself. Perry encouraged Levy, as well as the actors, to ad-lib while filming, resulting in a humorous clash of personalities between the characters.
One particularly amusing scene is when Kate takes a cue from Madea, and stands up for herself to George. With Cindy lashing out because she doesn’t know where she fits in and is feeling neglected, and Barbara not appreciating all that Kate does while caring for her, Kate has come to her breaking point. Richards does an unexpected, amusing imitation of Madea as she stands up for herself against George, proving that she truly deserves respect from her family.
‘Madea’s Witness Protection’ succeeds in not only showcasing two distinct families from different backgrounds and races trying to balance financial security with their personal relationships, but also in eliciting laughs as well. With the return of Perry’s most well-known and beloved character, Madea, paired with a family whose background and dynamics she’s completely unfamiliar with, the background successfully showcases Perry’s evolution as a filmmaker.
Written by: Karen Benardello