First of all, I love Madea. All I have to do is type her name and I’m laughing. And I bow to Tyler Perry as I would to any sensei.
But . . . Madea’s Witness Protection is not the best of the series. As I recall, my favorite so far is Madea’s Family Reunion. Mabel has her own wikipedia page, so you can peruse her life for yourself. Eventually you’ll remember that Madea is played by Perry, but for the most part she will live as an independent person in your mind. It is with a bit of sadness that I post this criticism of her world.
We start with . . . a white family. A rich, dysfunctional family living in the Hamptons, I suppose. Maybe this is what middle-class Connecticut looks like nowadays, I don’t know. Anyway, the house is mini-mansion and the wife rides horses. Eugene Levy, playing the dad, decides to go in to work on the weekend.
The office is full of workers shredding documents, much to Levy’s surprise. The company has been behaving illegally and Levy is on the hook for the crime. His cluelessness, or his extreme innocence, are unbelievable. Does anyone surf through life with no survival skills at all? Levy’s character starts out right away as slightly unlikable. More trouble for him: the company’s Ponzi scheme has taken money from 12 worthy charities, so Levy feels even more horrible.
Bring in Perry playing his lawyer character from the other Madea movies. He’s investigating the case that now involves Levy, so a meeting is in the future.
We have to follow Levy home so that he can explain the disaster to his family. Partly this is all laying the pipe, and partly this is all boring stuff that should have been compacted.
The saying, in relation to Jurassic Park, is that, “It took too long to get to the dinosaurs.” Well, Madea is our exciting dinosaur and it takes too long to get to her.
But now she’s here! We don’t need a 1 introduction to Madea; we jump right to the 2. Some punk in the back seat is trying to rob her. Heh heh. He will come to regret that. Also, he will come to be a minor character in the rest of the film, so this isn’t as gratuitous as it feels.
The mafia, who has been laundering money via the Ponzi scheme, sends Levy a box with a dead rat inside. Not one of the most inspired 3s, but workman enough. Will it mirror in the 6 at all? That I don’t remember. As I watch through again we’ll see where we end up.
The family goes into the witness protection program, and we are solidly in the 4. Perry is tasked with finding the family a very secret home. And that’s how Madea fits into this whole crazy story.
Jokes galore here. The daughter is a brat, which sends Madea into beast mode. It’s delicious. The grandmother is borderline senile, which leads to a few funny bits. Mostly, though, the humor in a Madea movie is that she speaks her mind without tact or censoring, and she says the things we’re all too polite to say. A large man dressed up as an old woman is more of a feminist icon than any real female out there. I would love to see someone riff on that topic some day.
I’m looking for the point when the family starts to work together as one unit. I’m tempted to call it as the moment when Grandma convinces Madea’s husband Joe that she really does know him. They had an enchanted moment enough years ago that Levy can be Joe’s son. With this as the Switch not only does the family begin to cohere but the black family and the white family form a literal connection. Some good jokes come from this section. As an Enneagram choice, though, it’s out of left field and disorienting.
We’re all forming bonds, so we’re in 5 territory now for sure. Grandma needs to go to the neighborhood church, which leads to Levy finally realizing how he can prove his innocence. Don’t ask. This is high level suspension of disbelief, but Tyler Perry as Madea wears a fem-suit with foam breasts, so let’s not demand too much reality.
Up to this point the Enneagram, while not inspired, has been satisfactory. Things go off the rails from here on out.
The household is watching Ghost on TV. A check-signing scene in a bank leads Levy to propose a similar scam in order to get the money his company stole returned to the charities who invested. Madea is going to have to pretend to be a fictitious woman named Precious Jackson.
This event fits the needs of a 6 very well: info from outside the story sets off a light bulb for a character. They roll with this inspired idea and head on into the climax. This is what happens in Witness. Unfortunately, it has no relationship whatsoever with its 3. If the 3 and 6 don’t arc in some way, the story wanders. Our attention wanders, too.
The decision to follow the crazy Ghost plan is easily made.
You can guess the rest. Madea in Manhattan is good comic material. She succeeds at the bank and Levy’s name is cleared. The car robber from Madea’s 2 has his money problem resolved as well. Everyone ends up happy and free.
And then it’s time to say goodbye. The kids, who’ve bonded with the household, ask Madea if they can visit sometime. She says no, which is a great laugh to close out the film.
Look, this movie isn’t pretending to be Citizen Kane or anything. It wants to be a good time in the theater, and it is. However, it is not up to the Perry standard and that’s a shame.