Tyler Perry’s Madea Goes to Jail (2009)

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I don’t know what it is about Tyler Perry, but I have a tendency to enjoy his plays and films. Even the ones that don’t include his trademark character of Mable “Madea” Simmons, the tough talking, gun totting matriarch. This film does bring back the character of Madea and combined with a really good backstory, this is perhaps one of Perry’s best films to include Madea.

The film picks up where Madea’s now famous car chase scene from Perry’s Meet the Browns leaves off. Madea has been arrested and now on violation of probation, she is heading for the big house…or is she? Due to a technicality, Madea is free but is warned that her next mistake will be her last.

Meanwhile, assistant D.A. Joshua has learned that Candace has been arrested for prostitution. Candace and Joshua were once old friends in college, but an incident pushed them apart from each other and now with a reunion, Joshua feels committed to try to help Candace, who feels like she doesn’t need any help. Joshua is engaged to fellow assistant D.A. Linda, who is more than she appears to be. When Joshua cannot turn to anyone else, he turns to his friend Ellen a clergywoman who has helped take homeless girls off the streets.

Meanwhile, Madea, who has a suspended driver’s license, drives to KMart and finds herself at odds with a snobby woman who cuts off Madea and takes her spot. Undeterred, Madea drives a forklift and takes the woman’s car off the spot. This was the last straw and Madea is now taken to the big house, where she meets Candace and tries to help her by take on the prison’s bully, Big Sal. Meanwhile, Joshua does all he can after he learns a dark secret about his fiancee to get Candace and Madea out of prison.

What is great about Tyler Perry’s Madea films and plays is that a good dramatic backstory dutifully compliments the comic relief of his trademark character. As with previous Madea films, Perry plays Madea, Uncle Joe (Madea’s Brother), and Bryan (Madea’s lawyer nephew). The comic relief with these three is still there and add to the mix, the duo of real-life husband and wife David and Tamela Mann as Madea’s neighbor and insane Christian man Mr. Brown and Cora, Madea and Mr. Brown’s daughter. As Madea, Perry does the shtick well once again and in what is the best comedic scene of the film, has an anger management session with (of all people), Dr. Phil himself. As a matter of fact, Perry and Dr. Phil had a blast filming the scene and it looked to be improvised for the most part in a very comical way.

The dramatic backstory to compliment the comic antics is well thought out as we learn about the character of Joshua, played by Derek Luke. An assistant D.A., he has a great life: a great job, a great life, and a great fiancee. That is, until he runs into old friend Candace, played by the former “Rudy Huxtable”, Keisha Knight Pulliam. Candace is a hurt woman who uses prostitution as her way out of her pain. Knight Pulliam really plays the character well and those who have the initial shock value of seeing little Rudy Huxtable play a hooker will be surprised by her performance here. You can see from the beginning that there was something that connected Joshua and Candace, a connection that proves to be even stronger than that of Joshua and his fiancee Linda, played by Ion Overman. Once Josh’s secret is revealed, you can’t help but only feel for him and understand why he is doing his best to help his one-time friend.

Madea doesn’t go to jail until well over an hour into the film, but one can’t help see that there is comic relief there as well. Some of the characters in the jail include Madea’s roommate T.T., played by Sofia Vergara, who looks to act like a 50’s housewife, but is in prison for killing 18 men; and bully Big Sal, who meets her match in Madea herself.

As always, Tyler Perry seems to have the happy endings and it works well here as always with the nice mix of comedy and drama. In other words, it is fun to see Madea Goes to Jail and if you want to see the play that came out in 2006, I would recommend that as well.

WFG RATING: A-

Lionsgate Films present a Tyler Perry Studios production. Director: Tyler Perry. Producers: Tyler Perry and Reuben Cannon. Writer: Tyler Perry. Cinematography: Alexander Gruszynski. Editing: Maysie Hoy.

Cast: Tyler Perry, Derek Luke, Keshia Knight Pulliam, David Mann, Tamela J. Mann, RonReaco Lee, Ion Overman, Vanessa Ferlito, Viola Davis, Sofia Vergara, Robin Coleman, Bobbi Baker, Aisha Hinds, Tom Joyner.

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