Tyler Perry is back again with his "Madea" character- Madea's Witness Protection is the seventh theatrical movie (not including straight-to-video releases) featuring Madea and the first to not be based on a stage play. For the uninitiated, Madea (full name Mabel "Madea" Simmons) is a loud-mouthed, older Southern African-American woman, in actuality played by Perry in make-up and drag, using a not-so-convincing female voice but we are supposed to just accept that she is a woman.
In Witness Protection, Madea takes in the Needleman family from New York at her house near Atlanta. The Needlemans had to leave New York after George (Eugene Levy) finds out the company he has been Chief Financial Officer for has been involved in fraudulent practices with the Mob, and those responsible have set him up to take the fall for it. He isn't too bright and has been rather naïve about the whole thing until now. He risks going to prison if he does nothing about it, but he and his family (wife Kate played by Denise Richards, son Howie played by Devan Leos, daughter Cindy played by Danielle Campbell, and mother Barbara played by Doris Roberts) are threatened with death if he testifies. George's marriage with Kate already isn't going too well, the kids from a previous marriage don't like him or Kate very much, and his mother is losing her memory and becoming delusional. The FBI decides that they need George to help put the bad guys away, so they put him and his family in their witness protection program. U. S. Attorney Brian Simmons (also played by Perry in a more conventional performance) who also happens to be Madea's nephew and son to her housemate Joe (again played by Perry, in aging makeup doing a cranky old man act) is given the task of placing them someplace where the mob won't find them, so he has them move into Madea and Joe's house.
What follows is George working with Brian gathering evidence for the case, while his wife and kids adjust to living in a different culture. Basically your stereotypical spoiled rich East coast white family meets stereotypical middle-class Southern black family. Daughter Cindy does some stereotypical complaining like "THIS isn't a hotel!" when they arrive at the house. Madea tries to get the kids to respect their family more and Kate and George to get closer to each other. Meanwhile it turns out Brian's friend Pastor Nelson (John Amos) is at risk for losing his church as a result of all this too, as he's entrusted Jake (Romeo Miller) to invest the church's money and it has ended up at George's company.
Tyler Perry does a good job at playing three different characters while directing, but the movie doesn't really go anywhere in its 115-minute running time. My main criticism is that the kids are underused- they're enrolled at a local school, but the movie doesn't show any scenes with them there. Culture clashes with the local kids could have provided some great material, but it's a missed opportunity. Instead a lot of time is spent with Madea going on sometimes incoherent and not very funny rants about the Needleman family's situation. Another incomplete gag is an insinuation that Joe and George's mother had a fling together decades ago and that Joe could actually be George's father, but this is never wrapped up. The mob never gets close to finding the family either- in fact once they get to Madea's house, that issue is pretty much over- nobody is in fear of being found, and we don't see what any of the mob guys are up to. I guess we're just supposed to assume that they really didn't think to look for them there.
Madea's Witness Protection is encoded in AVC format at 1080P with a 1.77 aspect ratio. It was shot digitally and looks very good, with mostly sharp focus and a very detailed picture. This gives an opportunity for any flaws in Tyler Perry's make-up to be seen, but looking closely I could not spot any.
Sound is in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Dialogue and music are very clear, but the use of multi-channel isn't very spectacular. Most sound stays in the center with music and occasional off-screen dialogue in the left and right. Surrounds are used sparingly except in a couple scenes.
A Spanish dubbed track, which sounds amusing, is included in 5.1 Dolby Digital, along with both regular English subtitles (showing just the dialogue) and "SDH" where sounds are described for the hearing-impaired as they are in closed captions, and Spanish subtitles.
Five featurettes, all shot on HD video at 24 frames per second are included:
"Tyler Perry: Multi Hats and Costumes" shows the three different characters Perry plays and reactions from the other cast members.
"Thank You, Hellur: Impersonating Madea" has the cast talking about what it's like working with Tyler Perry while he's playing Madea.
"The Needlemans" is a rundown of Eugene Levy's character and his family members as told by those who play them.
"Madea's Fun House" is mostly a blooper reel (other outtakes are also included in the movie alongside the end credits.) What's most entertaining here is seeing Tyler Perry in his Madea costume going in and out of character.
"Madea's Comedy Icons" is a reflection on working with the more experienced cast members: John Amos, Marla Gibbs, Eugene Levy and Doris Roberts.
The disc includes a bookmarking feature and gives you the option to resume where you left off if you stop during playback, although there is a long load time. For the sound nerds, a 5.1 DTS HD-Master Audio trailer is shown before the movie, and a Sound Check is also included that verifies your speakers are in-phase and in the right position to their corresponding channels.
The disc opens with some promos for other Tyler Perry material, in HD with 2-channel sound: a video trailer for Good Deeds, a promo for a DVD of the play "Aunt Bam's Place" (which doesn't appear to be available on Blu-Ray), and a short promo highlighting all of Tyler Perry's other Lionsgate titles on Blu-Ray.
You also get a code with the disc for a "Digital Copy" enterable for either Ultraviolet or iTunes. While I haven't seen much point to these as I think a movie should be viewed on a big screen with good sound and not on a small portable device, I have been activating the Ultraviolet codes I've gotten since they also add the movie to your Vudu account. I have Vudu on both my Blu-Ray player and TV which I use primarily for their rentals, and can now watch my Ultraviolet movies from there as well although I'm not sure why I would ever want to. This one gives you up to HDX quality with 5.1 Dolby Digital Plus audio. Sampling a bit of it through my Blu-Ray player, I noticed the brightness levels were set higher than normal, which I've noticed on other Vudu movies as well. My internet service can only handle Vudu's quality up to HD without dropping out- picture this way is watchable but of course presents compression artifacts that are absent on the Blu-Ray. I certainly would not want to collect my movies this way exclusively. The one true benefit I personally get from these 'digital copies' is I can watch them on my laptop computer through Vudu's site anyplace there is sufficient internet service. Again I don't see much point in this other than just re-watching favorite parts when stuck someplace.
I felt Madea's Witness Protection missed the mark, but was still mildly entertaining overall. Those who've liked Tyler Perry's prior movies will probably like this one as well, those who haven't liked them won't like this one either, and those who have not yet seen any will have to check this out and decide for themselves.
Pictures in this review were not taken from the Blu-Ray disc.
Jesse Skeen is a life-long obsessive media collector (with an unhealthy preoccupation with obsolete and failed formats) and former theater film projectionist. He enjoys watching movies and strives for presenting them perfectly, but lacks the talent to make his own.