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Madea Goes to Jail is not about Madea. She’s a smoke screen, a lure, a wriggling worm on a hook used to trick people into sitting through yet another of Tyler Perry’s unbearable, ball-less soap operas. This time he’s preaching about the dangers of prostitution. What’s that you say? Whoring yourself out is a bad idea? Praise be to Tyler Perry for having the courage to say something obvious and irrelevant. But thank god for Madea. She’s barely in the movie, she has absolutely nothing to do with anything that’s going on, but Perry has the good sense to cut to her wacky hijinks in all the spots where his audience might be considering walking out. You have to sit through his One Life To Live knockoff if you want to see the funny old fat lady.
The movie’s nearly over by the time Madea finally goes to jail. Till then, it’s the story of a lawyer trying to help out an old friend who’s turned to prostitution, against the objections of his shrill, rich-bitch, one-dimensional caricature of a girlfriend. Derek Luke plays the lawyer and while in other films he’s proven himself a more than capable actor, under Perry’s direction he, like everyone else in the movie who isn’t hidden under layers of wacky prosthetics, is a disaster. Or maybe it’s just Perry’s flat and empty writing which makes his cast seem so bad. Whatever the reason, this bunch sucks.
The soap opera comparison isn’t just a random insult, it’s an accurate depiction of Perry’s film, right down to it shoddy camera work and elevator music score. Stick Robin Williams in his Mrs. Doubtfire dress and have him join the cast of General Hospital and you’d have Madea Goes to Jail. Except at least he’d be a part of the cast. Madea’s story has almost nothing to do with what’s going on in this movie. She doesn’t even know any of the people involved. Madea exists in an entirely separate film, a very short film, which if you cut out the prostitution screed would only be about 15 minutes long. She serves no purpose, other than to sell tickets.
To me that’s what makes Perry’s work so insulting. He seems to realize how awful his movie is, seems to know that his soap opera is garbage, and so he’s resorted to dressing up in drag as a way of tricking people into paying him to see it. It’s a fraud. A scheme. A con being perpetrated legally and right under our noses. Maybe this all works better on the stage, where he started. Maybe his movies would get better if someone threw more money at them, heck it certainly couldn’t hurt him to hire a decent cinematographer. It doesn’t matter. Why should he bother? If Tyler Perry took a dump in a box and slapped Madea’s name on it, his fans would buy tickets to look inside it. Well Made Goes to Jail is the box. Go ahead and buy your tickets.