Entertainment Injustice

'Madea Goes to Jail' makes it clear: Tyler Perry really needs to be stopped

It seems like every time somebody farts, a new Tyler Perry movie comes out. Perry's latest, Madea Goes to Jail, stinks to high heaven, so that backs up that theory.

Writer and director Perry traffics in discordant, discombobulated movies involving his overweight, elderly drag persona, Madea; the films are always part-serious and part-slapstick. Admittedly, Madea does have some funny moments, but they are peppered into a film that deals with the horrors of prostitution, drug addiction and asshole prospective wives. You get a weighty scene in which actor Derek Luke is spewing tears all over the place, followed by a scene in which Madea beats up somebody or causes major public mayhem. It just doesn't work.

Luke plays Joshua, a young lawyer about to marry a co-worker and total monster bitch (Ion Overman). One day in court, he's asked to prosecute a young hooker who turns out to be a childhood friend named Candace (Keshia Knight Pulliam). Joshua can't take the case, and because he harbors guilt from an incident years ago, he opens up his home to Candace. This, justifiably, angers the fiancée, who proceeds to trump up the prostitute's charges and get her imprisoned for an inordinate amount of time.

On the other side of the movie is Perry, in multiple roles and costumes. Madea starts off the film in trouble for a high-speed police chase. She kicks the crap out of some cops but gets off on a technicality. Later, she ruins somebody's Pontiac convertible with a forklift, and that gets her some jail time, coincidentally, with troubled-hooker Candace. That's how the two stories merge! Isn't that clever?

Perry's writing is so bad that it's a wonder his movies make the bank that they do. As for the hooker character, it's like he went to an elementary school with a steno pad and polled a bunch of fifth-graders on what hookers do. They probably gave answers like, "They wear funny wigs!" and, "They chew gum!" and, "They do no-nos on the street!" Then he built his script around that.

The film is also a showcase for daytime television, with the cast of The View, Judge Mathis and Dr. Phil all making appearances. They get shoehorned into the movie in banal ways, such as Dr. Phil meeting with Madea regarding anger issues, and The View women discussing the injustices in Madea's case. If the movie were just about Madea and her travails, it wouldn't seem so strange. But the serious mistreated-hooker subplot throws everything askew. It doesn't help that the hooker is being played by Rudy from The Cosby Show.

The film's title is also misleading, because Madea doesn't make it to jail until an hour into the movie. As for the detention subplot, there's a scene of Madea kicking a big woman's ass, a scene of her in the mess hall, and a scene with her discovering her cellmate is a serial killer. You get one of those montages where you see time passing on a calendar, and then she's out of jail and causing trouble again.

The Perry movies are coming at a frequency greater than the Saw movies right now. He's also directing TV shows, and this all has to be taxing his creative spirit. The man obviously has some talents as a performer, so perhaps he should cash his checks, take a break and let somebody else write and direct these films. The strain is showing, and these movies feel like they are thrown together in a weekend. You just know Madea Goes to Rehab and Madea Goes to a Rest Home have to be on the way.

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