Tyler Perry is a Madea-shaped peg. And the hole that fits his trademark character has been working pretty well. I mean, obviously, we'll agree not to discuss the lifeless embarrassment of Madea's Witness Protection and instead remember the happier days when we laughed heartily over Madea's Big Happy Family. But still, Madea is solid good times.
Too bad for Perry, then, that he's feeling the chafe of that wig and fat suit. Now that he's female-impersonated himself all the way to Bazillionaire-Land, it's clear he wants to break out and be someone else. Someone who fights without a frying pan in hand. Someone who wears pants. Good Deeds was supposed to be his ticket to that but nobody bought their own tickets to see it. And that movie wasn't even horrible. It just didn't have Madea. Instead it featured The Man Perry. And that guy is sort of a blank.
In this prequel to Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider (where Morgan Freeman played Cross in his later career as an FBI profiler), Alex Cross (Perry) is an everyday psychiatrist and police detective with what amounts to supernatural intuition and a flabbergastingly precise understanding of the deepest brain folds of all the world's most insane criminals. He raises his finger to the air and can tell you that the serial killer down the block is watching Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. He's that good.
But not good enough to fully grasp the slippery nature of an emaciated madman named "Picasso" (Matthew Fox, 98 pounds of Nosferatu after a thousand really intense P90X workouts). Picasso is a frustrated artist who likes to torture-slay pretty much anyone who crosses his path and he causes a series of major traumas for Cross and his squad. Fueled with a burning desire for revenge, Cross goes after Picasso with all the outsmarting skills he possesses. In other words, have you seen an episode of Psych lately? Or any USA Network procedural? Ever? Because that's what this is, a softy PG-13 crime-plus-wisecracks-plus-death origin story with an inert protagonist. It's a silly, horribly written and directed one at that, a thing you could see from the comfort of your couch, executed with more intelligence, style and swagger by the cast of Criminal Minds.
But if you do wind up in a theater you'll at least get to come home with a couple of great comedy memories, mostly involving people bugging out their eyes. Fox does this in every scene. Message: He is crazy. And Perry does it once, during a phone conversation with Fox. Message: He is really, really angry. Then there's this other part where they're both fighting, mano a mano, in an old movie theater, and the camera fixates for a second on old, discarded reels of film on the ground. Message: Cinema is dead.