Madea’s Witness Protection promises the usual over preachy buffoonish storyline we’ve come accustomed to, falling way short of Diary of a Mad Black Woman and Madea’s Family Reunion, arguably Tyler Perry’s better works.
Despite the bad press and poor ratings, Tyler Perry continues to slaughter box office records with his beloved homespun advice-giving granny, Madea, a character who embodies a full spectrum of African-American stereotypes – overweight, uneducated, violent, superstitious and loud mouthed. While audiences continue to eat up every serving and beg for more, Hollywood has become aware of the many damages the industry has suffered at the hands of Perry.
Despite the cross-dressing writer-directors best efforts to provide work for actors who fall into minority groups (casting all-black casts in his pictures), his body of work has damaged the credibility of all the black actors involved. The honest truth is that there are only a handful of black actors blessed to be getting mainstream roles in Hollywood, namely Samuel L. Jackson, Denzel Washington, Tyrese, Will Smith, Morgan Freeman and Jamie Foxx. None who would dare appear in any of Perry’s movies.
And why not? African-American director Spike Lee has openly spoken out against Perry’s stereotyping films, dubbing them “coonery buffoonery.” Whether or not you agree with the statement or not is irrelevant. The fact is that there is still a major racism problem in Hollywood and Perry’s films, unfortunately, are the only outlet left for rising black actors. If black musicians aren’t confined to work in gangster hip hop, surely black actors shouldn’t be confined to stereotypical comedies. It’s near time black actors are offered roles that allow them to truly express themselves.
Perry has exhausted his Madea character beyond reclamation. With Madea’s Witness Protection, which feels less calculated than previous films, he struggles to find something important or funny to say, relying heavily on improv. Not even Eugene Levy’s presence manages to offer any solutions. The two pass the baton, trying just about every possible method short of tickling to provide laughs, but sadly every attempt falls flat. But creator-impersonator Perry knows his audiences and presses the right amount of buttons to get the thrills out of a scene – much like South Africa’s own Leon Schuster.
In Witness Protection, Madea is implored by prosecutor-nephew Brian (Perry without the makeup) to hide an accountant and his family (delusional mother, trophy wife and bratty kids included) from the mob. After much persuasion (a ton of money) Madea agrees and takes them into her home. Not long after Madea is pulling the disorganized family straight, threatening the kids, offering advice to the trophy wife and preaching to the accountant. The white folk hiding in an African-American home ensue.
Even if these type of movies appeal to you Madea’s Witness Protection is less effective than Tyler Perry’s previous works. It’s sad that those rewarded the opportunities to make movies aren’t making good ones. We’d be better off offering our money to something more rewarding and meaningful than a film that simply calls out stereotypes.