George Needleman (Eugene Levy) is so naive that he has no idea that his boss, Walter (Tom Arnold), is running a Ponzi scheme right under his nose. It only dawns on the terminally-nerdy CFO that something is awry when arrived at work one day to find all of his co-workers in the office of Lockwise Industries feverishly shredding documents.
At that point, he's belatedly informed by Walter that the Wall Street investment firm is about to be raided by the FBI, and that the only reason he'd been paid a million-dollar salary for the past seven years was to be the fall guy in the event of just such a collapse of the business. But after being arrested, instead of participating in the cover-up, George opts to cooperate with the authorities and agrees to testify against his former employer.
However, because the company had also been laundering money for the mob, he soon finds unsavory characters hanging around his sprawling mansion. So, rather than take any risks, the prosecutors decide to hide the whistleblower in the Witness Protection Program to makes sure he survives 'til the trial date.
In trying to decide the last place that anybody would look for a wealthy white family from Connecticut, the Feds settle on a humble abode in faraway Atlanta belonging to none other than Madea Simmons (Tyler Perry). The sassy granny jumps at the $4,000 per month compensation, unaware of just how much of a challenge she's about to take on.
For Needleman is a package deal who arrives with his family in tow, including his senile mother (Doris Roberts), a pampered trophy wife (Denise Richards) half his age, and a couple of spoiled-rotten kids (Devan Leos and Danielle Campbell). There's friction right from the start when daughter Cindy complains "What, are we sharecroppers, now?" about living in a black community. Madea is concerned, too, asking, "How am I supposed to hide five white people in this neighborhood?"
That is the promising point of departure of Madea's Witness Protection, a fish-out-of-water comedy co-starring Tyler Perry and Eugene Levy. The movie makes the most of the theme, such as when the hefty heroine introduces the Needlemans to a skeptical visitor with, "These are my cousins and they done lost all their pigmentation."
Most of the fun flows from the tension between the hostess and her uncomfortable houseguests, although the ensemble does feature a motley crew of colorful characters, including Madea's brother, Joe, and nephew, Brian (both played by Perry), a nosy neighbor (Marla Gibbs), and an impassioned pastor (John Amos) with a Prodigal Son in need of redemption (Romeo Miller). It's just too bad the laughs aren't as frequent as your typical Tyler Perry production.
When all is said and done, the real purpose of this modern morality play is to enable Madea to right some wrongs and deliver a few well-timed sermons, whether she's giving the Needlemans marriage counseling, teaching their offspring to appreciate their blessings, helping wimpy George develop a backbone, evening the score with a crooked corporate executive or scaring a juvenile delinquent straight.
Madea goes mainstream!
Good (2 stars)
Rated PG-13 for crude sexual remarks and brief drug references.
Running time: 114 minutes
Distributor: Lionsgate Films