Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Tyler Perry seems to have some of the same issues that Adam Sandler has when it comes to his fans. If Adam Sandler makes a stupid comedy and has Rob Schneider somewhere in there saying ‘you can do it’ chances are it’s going to make a bunch of money but if he tries to be serious, say like the wonderful ‘Punch Drunk Love’ or ‘Reign over Me’, his faithful choose to pass on that. Similarly it would appear if Tyler Perry dons the white wig and becomes the profanely violent Madea, success is guaranteed but for movies in which Madea takes a holiday such as ‘Daddy’s Little Girls’ or ‘The Family that Preys’ then not so much. Though we should mention that due to Perry’s economical shooting style those movies still made money as Tyler Perry single-handedly continues to keep Lionsgate afloat. But there’s marginal success and then there’s Madea success and there must be parts of Atlanta that Perry doesn’t own yet as Madea steps into the limelight and takes center stage in ‘Madea Goes to Jail’.

Our film starts with a meeting of assistant D.A.’s going over the morning cases with the prize case of the day featuring Mabel Simmons, who we know as Madea (Perry) and her impending trial on a number of offenses stemming from an O.J. Simpson style slow roll street chase. Our attorney’s of note who are avoiding this case are Joshua Hardaway (Derek Luke), his best friend Chuck (Ronreaco Lee) and Joshua’s fiancée Linda (Ion Overton). Linda gets the case as she is a fast rising star in the office with an impressive conviction rate while Joshua takes on a minor pandering case. The problem with Joshua’s case is that it turns out he knows the young woman that he is prosecuting, Candace Washington (Keisha Knight Pulliam) as they grew up together. Seeing Candace again, in this particular state as a strung out whore, has had a powerful effect on Joshua who has taken upon himself to fix this woman, despite her the fact that she doesn’t want to be fixed, as there seems to be a tragic history between two.

Meanwhile Madea beats her rap on a technicality and goes about doing her Madea thing which includes stressing her Lawyer nephew Brian (Perry), absorbing insults from her pot smoking brother Joe (Perry), stressing out her daughter Cora (Tamela J. Mann), shooting up her house, destroying a K-Mart parking lot and eventually ending up right back in prison.

Back on the other side of town Joshua’s blue blood fiancé is having quite the hissy fit over her man’s insistence on trying to help this drug addicted prostitute, calling her nice names like them ‘those people’. Eventually the bitchy fiancée has to take matters in her own hands to make sure this woman doesn’t get in the way of her long term plans with Candace getting sent jail for what seems like an awful long time for a pandering charge. But in lockup Candace makes the friendly acquaintance of Madea in addition to a golden hearted streetwise preacher (Viola Davis) who helps her find the lord and get her life back together, while on the outside the man who feels he let Candace down some years ago promises not to let that happen again.

I’m watching this movie and certain characters like Candace are talking a lot about ‘the streets’ and what life is like in these streets and how you don’t know anything about these streets and how long she’s been in ‘these streets’. If Candace knew these streets so well, when the angry pimp dude was chasing her and her whore buddy Donna (Vanessa Ferlito) down these streets she would’ve known that that alley she just ran into was a dead end. So much for knowing ‘these streets’.

Anyway, I think we’ve mentioned this before but there’s really no  point in ‘reviewing’ these Tyler Perry joints because his fans are going to see them regardless and his detractor are going to rail on them no matter what. This one is really no different than any of the other Perry films that I’ve seen in that the characters, outside of Madea and Joe, are broadly drawn caricatures of real people who behave in ways that nobody I know behaves, the narrative is filled with preachy melodrama, melodrama which as usual is delivered by a collection of very good actors who make it all sound palatable. The story also suffers in that it jumps from two completely different storylines, the melodramatic lawyers in distress and back to over the top comedic actions of Medea and her wacky antics, with both of them being a bit undercooked, but the Medea parts were at least funny and I simply suffered through the melodrama just to get back to Medea doing what she does.

The bottom line with Perry’s movies, even though they really aren’t very good due the problems we’ve just mentioned, but they still manage to be watchable and entertaining at least to some degree. I do think he has the talent and certainly the resources considering that Tyler Perry pulls in some of the brightest acting talent available to be in these rather shallow movies of his, but until his fans allow the man to go deeper in his filmmaking, it’s looking like we’re going to have settle for a 6’5” man in drag sporting a white frosty wig and going around slapping folks upside the head. Waddayagonna do?

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