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Madea is starting to look a little tired.
No wonder, considering that she’s now starring in her seventh film iteration for her alter ego, the alarmingly prolific actor-filmmaker Tyler Perry. But in the (as usual) self-branding titled Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Witness Protection, this prototypical angry black woman seems content to merely roll her eyes or mutter to herself as commit physical mayhem.
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Primarily notable for its adding numerous Caucasian characters into the mix, this tired installment of the ongoing Madea saga has her playing nursemaid to a white family headed by a CFO of a Wall Street investment bank who has been set up as the fall guy for a Bernie Madoff-style Ponzi scheme.
The hapless George Needleman (Eugene Levy) is in danger of being rubbed out for his cooperation with the authorities, so federal agent Brian (Perry, playing it straight) decides to squirrel him and his family away in what he laughably sees as the most inconspicuous place possible — the Atlanta home of his irascible Aunt Madea (also Perry) and his crotchety father Brian (Perry, yet again), in an all-black neighborhood.
Needless to say, culture clash ensues, with the uptight family — including George’s trophy wife (Denise Richards), his spoiled teen children (Danielle Campbell, Devan Leos) and his dementia-addled mother (Doris Roberts, in a fright wig) — quickly set straight by their no-nonsense hostess.
Other than an early scene in which Madea violently takes an armed carjacker to task, the oversized matron is largely restrained this time around. Her principal foil is the rebellious daughter, whom she not-so-hilariously teaches a life lesson by falsely telling her that her family has been killed.
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Maintaining a consistent tone has never been one of the filmmaker’s strengths, but this effort — veering wildly from broad comedy to sensitive drama — feels even more ungainly than most. And as usual, the proceedings are interminably stretched out, in this case to a snail-paced 114 minutes.
Even such potentially amusing comic set pieces as when Madea goes through airport security, with predictably chaotic results, feel awfully half-hearted.
Still, any criticism seems useless, as Perry’s loyal legions of fans likely will eat it all up. Others will enjoy the antics of the ever-reliable Levy — who spends most of the film in a state of amusing semi-hysteria — and the presence of such familiar faces as Roberts, John Amos and Tom Arnold.
Speaking of familiar faces, another one shows up in the obligatory end-credits outtakes. The surprise won’t be spoiled here, other than to say that he doesn’t appear to be “winning.”
Opens: Friday, June 29 (Lionsgate).
Production: Lionsgate, Tyler Perry Studios .
Cast: Tyler Perry, Eugene Levy, Denise Richards, Doris Roberts, Romeo Miller, Tom Arnold, John Amos, Marla Gibbs, Danielle Campbell, Devan Leos.
Director-screenwriter: Tyler Perry
Producers: Tyler Perry, Ozzie Areu, Paul Hall
Executive producers: John J. Kelly, Michael Paseornek
Director of photography: Alexander Gruszynski
Production designer: Eloise C. Stammerjohn
Editor: Maysie Hoy
Costume designer: Carol Oditz
Music: Aaron Zigman
Rated PG-13, 114 minutes
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