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Madea Goes to Jail

Posted Tuesday, March 10, 2009, at 10:20 AM

Tyler Perry stars in yet another 'Madea' adventure.
Tyler Perry's Madea Goes to Jail

Running time: 103 minutes

Rated: PG-13


Tyler Perry - Madea/Joe/Brian

Derek Luke - Joshua

Keshia Knight Pulliam - Candy

David Mann - Brown

Tamela J. Mann - Cora

Director: Tyler Perry

Genre: Comedy

Official Movie Web Site: http://www.madeagoestojailmovie.com/

Pot-smokin'/pistol-packin'/po-po-tauntin'/hallelujer-spoutin' grandma Madea (Tyler Perry) once again finds herself in hot water with the law. Not even anger management sessions with Dr. Phil can save her from an inevitable prison sentence for her brazen behavior. Meanwhile, rising assistant district attorney Joshua (Derek Luke) is reunited with college sweetheart Candace (Keshia Knight Pulliam), who's now a drug-addicted prostitute. When Joshua tries to show Candy some kindness his cold-hearted fiancee Linda (Ion Overman) objects. And yes, these plotlines could only co-exist in a movie by Perry.

The buzz: Madea hasn't headlined a movie since 2006's "Madea's Family Reunion," which remains Perry's highest grossing film. Considering his box office has been heading ever-so-slightly South since then (remaining far beyond an indie niche, but not quite blockbuster level), is it too cynical to suggest Perry's return to drag is also a stab at reasserting his drawing power?

The verdict: No question, Madea's fans will rejoice in seeing her sassy ways back on the big screen, and at least this vehicle improves on the woeful "Family Reunion." But it's not fair to grade Perry on a curve when he's working with clearly capable actors (including Oscar nominee Viola Davis in a key supporting role) and has done better work in the past ("Why Did I Get Married?" remains his best film). His mix of broad melodrama with broad comedy is still awkward, and fails to do justice to either half of the story here. Luke and Pulliam are engaging performers trapped in a TV-movie level romance, and the considerable time devoted to their storyline means that there's actually not enough Madea in the movie. There's so much set-up that Perry doesn't even make good on the women-behind-bars premise until the last act. It's a patented Perry formula to cram as much as possible into one movie, but "Madea Goes to Jail" proves the strategy remains as artistically dubious as ever.

Did you know? Perry's fixation with seriously flawed career women continues. The brittle Linda might as well be the second coming of Sanaa Lathan's ice queen in "The Family That Preys." Maybe it's time Perry creates a smart, successful, high-powered career woman who's as noble and saintly as his male heroes.

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