3 Stars — Wholesome
Tyler Perry (director, writer, actor, producer) has emerged as a powerful force in Hollywood. Using the homespun stories and caricatures from his experiences in the African-American community, he tells tales that are hilarious and often too close to home.
Perry, who directed, wrote and produced Madea’s Witness Protection, also stars as Madea, the crazy older woman who is always fighting with someone, and most often it is her brother Joe (also played by Perry). Perry’s unique stories in film and television have helped him build one of the highest-grossing studios in Hollywood history, though it is actually based in Atlanta.
This latest installment of the Madea stories also includes Perry as Brian, a federal official who has to hide a mob informant at his Aunt Madea’s home. The fact that the informant, George Neddleman (Eugene Levy), and his family are wealthy suburban white folks now trying to hide in a poor black neighborhood adds to the goofy mayhem that follows.
As in all the stories about wild Aunt Madea, she is a self-proclaimed evangelist for proper behavior, even though she herself often strays from the straight and narrow. Also, as in previous Madea adventures, the neighborhood African-American Church holds a strong influence in the story, and Madea’s self-righteous behavior often puts her at odds with her neighbors and other church members. In the end, Madea’s stories are morality plays that show the value of staying true to family, faith and friendship.
Madea’s Witness Protection not only shows her usual humorous behavior at home, but in this installment, she has to travel to New York to pull off the recovery of money for charities stolen by the Mob as well. Transforming Madea from a dowdy homebody into a wealthy aunt of Michael Jackson is a new twist that adds great laughs to her usual wacky behavior.
Through lectures to her brother, advice to guests in her home that is about as distant from her own experience as one can get, and her suppressed anger toward young people (like the informant’s kids who she feels treat adults with disrespect), this crazy-as-a-loon aunt turns out to be the wisest person in the room. Whether you can relate to Madea’s experiences or whether you agree or disagree with her approach to life, you have to admire her tenacity to teach young people to respect others “the way the church teaches you,” even though she often uses unorthodox ways to get her point across.
Madea is a flawed human being who always attempts to live a better life. In that sense, she is the perfect reflection of all of the rest of us, and is a great reminder that God uses even the most unusual and flawed people to make His point.
» When you create an improbable situation, such as putting a white family in the protection of an African-American woman, the humor is obvious. Do you like the obvious laughs or rather a more subtle comedy?
» By putting herself in juxtaposition to the church, Madea ends up being an effective advocate of Christian morality. Why do you think this is true?
» It is difficult to be the director, writer, star and producer of a film without having it become limited by the talents of one person. Do you find this to be true with this film? Why or why not?
— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church, 1435 Cliff Drive. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com.