This summer, Tyler Perry released the sixth installment in his popular Madea series, Madea’s Witness Protection, now on DVD. Perry directed, produced, and starred in the film, which grossed over $65 million at the box office.
This success is not rooted in a complex storyline, three-dimensional characters or witty dialogue, as the movie is devoid of them, but it could be rooted in the respect Perry has for faith and family.
The movie tells the story of George Needleman (Eugene Levy), a weak-kneed CFO who learns his company was fleecing charities in a mob-run Ponzi scheme. The bad news is: Needleman’s the fall guy and the mob wants blood.
The prosecutor on the case (Perry) moves Needleman and his family to the safest place he can think of—his Aunt Madea’s house in Georgia. Though Madea (also Perry) is not thrilled about trying to hide “a bunch of white folks” in her all-black neighborhood, she agrees, consoling herself with the $4,000 monthly stipend she’ll receive.
The Needleman family isn’t too thrilled either, particularly George’s teenage daughter, Cindy, who verbally abuses her half-brother and demeans her stepmother whenever she can. Cindy’s raunchy attitude flabbergasts Madea, who concocts a snide scheme to help Cindy appreciate her family.
Meanwhile, George is pulling his hair out trying to unravel what’s left of the company’s financials. When he takes his mother to a nearby church to hear “negro spirituals,” a word in the pastor’s message helps him untangle the web of deceit.
Despite the stereotypes, crass humor, and mild language giving the film its PG-13 rating, Madea’s Witness Protection hits a chord with American viewers. Perry’s respect for faith and family is encouraging, but to have a lasting cultural impact he must move past slapstick humor, deepening the depth of his stories and the quality of his characters.