Movie Reviewed: Madea Goes to Jail
Directed By: Tyler Perry
Starring: Tyler Perry, Derek Luke, Keshia Knight Pulliam, David Mann, Tamela J. Mann, Viola Davis, Ion Overman, Vanessa Ferlito, RonReaco Lee
Rated: Rated PG-13 for mature thematic material, drug content, some violence and sexual situations.
Runtime: 103 minutes
Studio: The Tyler Perry Company
Madea is back and maybe she has smoked a little too much of that wacky weed because she and her compadres are in rare form. Mediocre form is more like it. Madea Goes To Jail is full of strong dramatic situations, and comedic exploits that are occasionally funny.
“Funny” is lacking from this otherwise dramatically moving film. Sure you will laugh out loud once or twice, but the gags are repetitive, especially if you are a fan of the Madea stories. Madea fights with her pothead brother, her brother has a party as soon as she thinks he is gone, Madea encourages a mild mannered relative to run a man off the road and of course Madea brawls with as many members of the police force as possible. So what’s new? Fortunately the theme, while nothing new, is poignant.
Social responsibility messages are an expected part of the Tyler Perry experience. Surviving domestic violence and infidelity was the theme of the first Madea film, Diary Or A Mad Black Woman. In Madea Goes to Jail, the underlying theme is “prostitutes are people too.”
Assistant District Attorney (ADA) Joshua Hardaway (Derek Luke) runs into a friend Candace Washington, played convincingly by Keshia Knight Pulliam, at the jail house. Hardaway can’t understand why his old friend and former promising student has turned to a life on the streets. Linda (Ion Overman), Hardaway’s jealous, materialistic, evil and manipulative fiancé and coworker, takes Washington’s case. Madea befriends Washington in jail, and the rest is a jumble of not so perfectly executed deceit, exposure and redemption.
All grown up, Pulliam, a former child star, was best known from her role as Rudy on The Cosby Show. And while we are all aware that the profession is called “acting” it is still strange to see Rudy play a belligerent prostitute.
Viola Davis is refreshing and formidable as Ellen, the tough talking preacher, and counselor who has devoted her life to teaching prostitutes how to protect themselves and ultimately try and help to get prostitutes off of the streets.
At the core of this Madea tale is real heart, regret, and a social ill someone to address with grace and dignity. Perry deserves credit for addressing the issue of prostitution and a legal system that does not care about the accused.
With his casting, and stories Tyler Perry has found and connected with a segment of the population that really gets his humor. They get it so much, that their support has Perry laughing all the way to the bank. That said Perry has a personal responsibility not to let those who have grown to love his characters down. He is finally meeting the needs of a group of people who have not had Hollywood be very kind to them. Now is not the time to churn out barely satisfying entertainment!