Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Torrent Theater - Madea Goes To Jail
Producer/writer/director/actor Tyler Perry has established himself as a creative force in the entertainment industry with a succession of hit films and television shows. Perry's critics often say the comedy in his films play on racial stereotypes and I've even heard words like "cooning" thrown around, but there's obviously a segment of African American moviegoers that feel neglected by mainstream Hollywood and Perry has filled a niche with his brand of cinema, as seen with the success of his previous films ("Diary Of A Mad Black Woman", "Madea's Family Reunion", "Meet The Browns").
At this point, anyone who has seen one of his films, knows exactly what to expect. A slaptick African American comedy mixed with a moralistic melodrama. In his latest, Madea Goes To Jail, Perry once again dons the wig and dress as the over the top, quick tempred, granny with an attitude, Mable “Madea” Simmons.
The film is loosely adapted from a play of the same name, emphasis on loosely. If you went to see Perry and Co. perform Madea Goes To Jail on the "chitlin circuit" or managed to come up on one of the bootlegged dvd's of the original, don't expect this to be a theatrical version of the same. Madea does eventually end up in jail, but that's about the only plot thread the play and the film share.
The film bounces back and forth between two stories. One being Madea's family's (her daughter, her bong toking brother & her son, both played by Perry) & attempts to the story of Candace (Keshia Knight-Pullam) a woman who has spent years being used & abused by men, finding herself as an addict and a prostitute. Josh (Derek Luke), a childhood friend who also happens to be assistant District Attorney, feels some obligation to help her out, against the wishes of his overbearing fiance, another lawyer in the D.A.'s office.
Madea's antics, while more malicious then in previous films, are at least entertaining, as with the courtroom faceoff with Judge Mathis and a hilarious scene where Madea is court ordered to take anger management classes and engages in a war of wits with Dr. Phil. There were some scenes that weren't believable but would slide if this movie were purely a comedy. It's the lawyer/prostitute subplot that stalls. The situations were so overwrought and purposely heart wrenching, I found myself having a hard time caring for either character.
The main problem I have with the movie is that the two seperate plotlines never really mesh. It's as if Perry took the whole "Madea goes to jail" premise from his play and tacked a completely different film on to it. A film with it's own structure and sensabilities. There are two decent flicks here, but the emotional center becomes muddled when they're combined.
Judging by Madea Goes To Jail's $41.1 million opening weekend and Madea's Class Reunion being greenlit for a 2010 release, Tyler Perry is criticproof, with a hardcore fanbase that overlooks the flaws in his films because he's one of the few people in Hollywood making films for them. Movies like this aren't going to gain him any new fans, but they certainly won't cost him any either.