Reel Shorts | Madea Goes To Jail

20 02 2009

Multi-talented entertainment force Tyler Perry attempts to marry two genres with mixed success discovering along the way it’s hard to serve two master in the uneven dramaedy, “Madea Goes to Jail.”

Alternating between buckwild Mabel “Madea” Simmons, (Perry) who has some SERIOUS anger issues and is trying to stay out of trouble and Assistant District Attorney, Josh Hardaway (Derek Luke) who seems to be on the fast track to marital bliss before a person from his past shows up and has him reexamining his life choices.

As the story opens, Madea’s long and distinguished rap sheet is on display for all to see. After escaping jail because of a technicality, the feisty, angry woman continues to wreck havoc on family, friends and unsuspecting people in the ATL. Driving everyone around her crazy, she even manages to piss Dr. Phil off to the point that he washes his hands of her.

But soon the story takes an ominous tone when during a routine case, Hardaway discovers a person from his past, prostitute Candance “Candy” Washington (Keisha Knight Pullium). Recusing himself the case, Hardaway has a connection to the streetwalker, which is revealed in a powerful scene later in the film. Her mere presence is enough to drive his trophy fiance and fellow attorney up the wall as she tries to wrap her mind around the relationship between Hardaway and Washington.

In an effort to help Candy turn her life around, Hardaway hooks her up with former prostitute-turned-minister, Ellen (Viola Davis) who must overcome her inability to trust people to shepard Candy to the light. As we pull back the layers to Josh and Candy’s story, their relationship not only comes into focus but how their “secret” has affected both of them in their current lives.

While Candy continues to evolve, Madea soon finds herself on lock-down where she issues beatdowns and her own special brand of common sense for any and everybody who will listen, including the wayward Candy. As is his custom in nearly every film, Perry injects his theme of forgiveness that helps both Candy and Madea release their personal demons and get on with their lives.

The most disappointing thing about this film is how much better it could have been if made just as a drama. He infuses his dramatic scenes with a personal passion and vigor that provides his audience of a glimpse of future excellence. But his inability to drop his popular stage persona may keep Perry paid in full but will never allow him to expand his audience outside of the Black community.

With his seventh film in four years, Perry has made gigantic strides in all facets of his craft. While technically still not a great director, Perry does a serviceable job getting solid performances out of Luke, Pullium and Davis. While the dramatic story arc could have been a separate film, Perry understands where his bread is buttered.  The story suffers from shifting back and forth never allowing either to really fully develop. Ultimately, Perry”s inability to weave both stories together makes neither story enjoyable . . . and it is the audience that remains locked down!

Grade: C+




11 responses

20 02 2009
Madea Goes To Jail Review | Shifting Loyalties « FilmGordon |

[…] Madea Goes To Jail Review | Shifting Loyalties « FilmGordon […]

20 02 2009
Roscoe Hager, Jr

thanks for the review! I think I will check it out and see if he still got it.

21 02 2009

I always feel like Tyler Perry is insulting his audience by resorting to the lowest common demoninator of drama and comedy. Every message, every line, every utterance is done with a sledgehammer. It’s as if he doesn’t trust the audience to “get” the film so he keeps explaining the joke.

What worries me most is that he’s the most successful Black director (and now TV producer) and Hollywood will just assume that’s ALL we want.

I shudder just thinking about it.

21 02 2009


I hear you and I agree, but I think that’s because of his background coming out of the theater.

Your concerns about his popularity and success industry-wide once again highlight the difference between financial success and true artistic achievement. While Perry’s films have been tremendously successful, I don’t think he will ever be confused with Spike Lee, the early John Singleton, Antoine Fuqua, F. Gary Gray, Bill Duke and hell even Robert Townsend.

Perry’s popularity is based largely on creating an audience of those accustomed to his plays and their transition to the big screen. Until he is able to widen his core audience, he will be successful but ultimately stuck in a box.

21 02 2009

I love all of Tyler Perry’s movies and Madea is the main reason. That character is genius. If you stop to listen to the messages that Tyler Perry is sending with his work you’ll walk away with a huge bonus. Madea is his signature and her comedy is what drew my family to his plays and his movies. If she’s in it we’ll be watching for sure. But what keeps us coming back is the strong moral messages and the sweet love stories that Tyler instills in everything he does. This movie has all that and a little action too. Love it!!

I couldn’t disagree more with the comment on expanding his audience outside the black community. I think he already has. Tyler Perry has a huge multi-racial following. My family is at the top of that list! I can’t wait for the next movie!!!!

21 02 2009

joejoe & filmgordon,

i totally agree with you about perry’s films. he is risking, in the future, possibly becoming “played out”, if you will, should he continue to stick to the same formula with his films…right now he has no excuse, he has the money to polish and push the evelope but there doesn’t seem to be any interest.

i’m none too happy, as an af-am, that the most prolific filmmaker right now is not neccessarily the best. i guess i could be more accepting of perry if he moved to help struggling af-am directors and screenwriters who are producing quality work…give back in a way, diversify the offerings a bit. its just sad, this is all that’s being offered to af-am audiences. i long to see a day where some of our most powerful players in the film industry get together to form a production company to produce all kinds of films for af-am audience as well as to a broader audience.

22 02 2009
Conversations with . . . Tyler Perry « FilmGordon

[…] Madea Goes To Jail Review | Shifting Loyalties […]

23 02 2009
Quanda Nichols

Your review of this movie was on point. I saw it over the weekend and there was a point were the move had been on The assistant A.D’s and the prositute story I have forgotten I was watching a Madea movie. It wasn’t to my partner tapped me and asked me where is Madea? I think together the two storys didn’t work. Seperatley I think they would have been great. I think Derrick Luke and Keisha Pulliam did an excellent job and I was interested in what there story was. I thought Madea was funny as usually I just didn’t think the two stories had anything to do with other.

24 02 2009

I saw the movie on the day it opened. I loved it. I was satisfied with Madea’s story. I can never get enough of her handling life her own way. I laughed through out the movie. I rate Madea goes to jail an A+. Yes I did feel like it was two separate movies but both stories were excellant. I do plan on seeing it again, this week. I think that Tyler Perry is out of the box, everyone knows who is now. I live in Alabama. On opening day, it wasn’t just African Americans in the theater, it was black and white. Tyler Perry’s work is getting the message of Christianity out to people of all races, slowly but surely. If you know or desire to know God, his work will reach you. The Tyler Perry movies are bigger than laughs and drama. The movies are about how God’s love, influence and guidance can help us, humans find our way in life. That is the purpose, it’s not about the biggest numbers, mainstream, or which race comes out to support Tyler. This is Tyler doing the LORD’s work!! When you are giving an opportunity to be heard by millions of suffering people, that opportunity should be used to give insight about God… All that He has done and all that He will do!

26 02 2009

It is so funny to me that people will criticize Tyler Perry for making one genre of movies, but they don’t criticize Will Farrell, or Adam Sandler, or Jim Carey. I thought “The Family that Preys” was an excellent film. I also thought Madea’s Family Reunion was an excellent film. Obviously you got the message of the movie, so he got the point across. Why is it that the Af-Am Director is so harshly criticized for making people laugh, while addressing serious issues? In real life do you experience one emotion. NO. Sometimes you laugh, somtimes you cry, sometimes both. If you don’t care for the movie, that is fine, but the last I checked you can’t be #1 in the box office, if you are not reaching across the color lines. So the only appealing the black folks comment is a bunch of bull. Either way I will continue to support Tyler Perry, and treat him the same as any other director. If I see the trailor, and I am interested, I’ll go to the movies and watch it. If I am not interested, I’ll wait for the DVD on Netflix. If I like it after that I will buy it, if not, I won’t.

Have a great day!

3 03 2009

I am not a fan of Madea’s. I have never been impressed with Tyler’s writing style either. However, I saw Madea GTJ today and left the theater planning the date of my second viewing! That was a very entertaining movie! There were 2 separate stories but they did intersect in the courtroom and the jailhouse. Who says that you can’t have more than one storyline tugging for your attention at the same time — remember the Academy Award winning CRASH. The thing that is different in Madea GTJ is one story was a drama and the other was a comedy. Tyler evidently believes Madea is the main draw to his movies and he knows how to use that magnet to get you in so he can give you a taste of something else too i.e., a sweet love story. Derek and Keisha had wonderful chemistry. Loved the movie!! No one can deny that Tyler has made obvious leaps in the quality of his movies. Hopefully, he will eventually retire Madea for good and give us more of what he gave in ‘Why Did I Get Married’. I think he’s ready.

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