Too much too fast
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 this particular theory.
Writer and director Perry traffics in discordant, discombobulated movies that are part serious and part slapstick and involve his overweight, elderly drag persona, Madea. 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 who need to be put in their place. You get a weighty scene where actor Derek Luke is spewing tear water all over the place, immediately followed by a scene where Madea beats somebody up or causes major public mayhem. It just doesn’t work.
Luke plays Joshua, a young lawyer about to marry a coworker and total monster bitch (Ion Overman). One day in court he’s asked to prosecute a young hooker, who turns out to be Candace (Keshia Knight Pulliam), a childhood friend. Joshua can’t take the case, but because he harbors guilt from an incident years ago regarding Candace, he opens up his home to her. This justifiably angers the fiancé, 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 there is Perry in multiple roles and costumes. Madea starts the film off in trouble for a high-speed police chase. She kicks the crap out of some cops (Bruu-ha-ha-ha!) 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, 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!” and 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 over anger issues, and The View women discussing the injustices involving Madea’s case. If the movie were just one big goofy plot involving Madea and her travails, then this 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 quite misleading, because Madea doesn’t make it to jail until an hour into the movie. As for the prison subplot, there’s a scene of Madea kicking a big woman’s ass, a scene of her in the mess hall, and one 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.
Seriously, the Perry movies are actually coming with a frequency greater than the Saw movies right now. He’s also directing TV shows, and that has to be taxing on the 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 take over writing and directing chores.
The strain is showing in the movies, which 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.