At one point on Friday, June 29, Tyler Perry's Madea's Witness Protection owned the distinction of a 90º differential on its Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer with critics chiming in at 0%(!) favorable, and audiences lavishing the comedy with 90% favorable rating.
In the days since reading about the 90 point spread in this post on the ShadowAct Blog, the gap has narrowed to 22% Critics/78% Audience.
This time out, a number of notable publications including Variety and The Village Voice offered tempered support for the film: "The interaction among opposites inspires an abundance of predictable race-based jokes, many of which have the saving grace of actually being funny," said Variety's Joe Leydon, while Nick Pinkerton of the Voice summed up his feelings for Perry's latest thus: "An agent of spiritual regeneration and showman, Perry's dramaturgy is as subtle as a Bible-thump, but until a logy last act that has Levy disguised as a faux-Frenchman, his instincts are on-target here."
In response to the ShadowAct post, commentator CareyCarey's expressed the fans' point of view thus: "DOUBLE F#*K reviewers with a dirty water hose. What exactly are they going to tell me? Are they going to tell me when I should laugh or what characters "I" can relate to? Hell, as someone mentioned, if it's a white reviewer, "I" know they don't have my best interests at heart (most of the time). Heck, if it's a black reviewer, and I find out they were not entertained by last night's BET Music awards, their stuffy ass is outta here."
It is a mistake to read the critical lambasting of Perry's films through a racial lens.
To do so disregards Perry's choice of genre and the specifically broad brand of humor he employs. (It is fair to note some critics' reticence to endorse what is perceived as characters rooted in racist historically stereotypical archetypes - but this makes their rejection anti-racist, which complicates matters.)
The better counterpoint is Adam Sandler, whose most recent offerings include That's My Boy (23% Critic/64% fan, gross $34.4m), Jack and Jill (3%/39%,$74.2m), Just Go With It (19%/62%; $103m); Grown-Ups (10%/59%; $162m).
Note the spread between critical and audience, and more importantly the box office: 4 films, all below 23% favorable, most near 60% fan support, and all combining to earn about $350 million at the box office.
In Hollywood, money talks and bullshit walks. Which is why Sandler keeps getting to make movies, and why Tyler Perry (whose Witness Protection opened #4 with $25m on 2161 screens) is laughing all the way to the bank.
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