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Madea Goes to Jail...and Makes Me Laugh

Movie title: Madea Goes to Jail (2009)
Grade: B- (3 stars)
Rated: PG-13
Summation: Stubborn Madea butts heads with the law and ends up in the slammer with some interesting characters.
Spoilers ahead: No

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She's 6'5 and gorgeous (well, in a sort of big-man-dressed-up-as-a-woman sort of way) and she's funny too. I don't think Eddie Murphy could have done as well dressed up. As a norm, I don't enjoy men dressing up as women and trying to be funny, and I never thought I would...until I met Madea! I got a kick out of Madea in Tyler Perry's Madea Goes To Jail, which happens to be the one out of the three movies in the Madea series I've seen.

Funny and creatively written, it has a lot going for it. I would never have thought of writing "Coca Cola colonoscopy" into a script or pronouncing the word "chemistry" like you would the word "chimney." It's the kind of cheap, throwaway humor you might as well be entertained by.

Madea, played by Tyler Perry, as are "Joe" (Madea's oxygen-craving brother) and "Brian" (Madea's nephew) are all commendably made-up characters, with their own "ticks" that set them apart. Now Madea has a temper problem--one that even Dr. Phil can't solve! This incessantly gets her into trouble with the law. Her brother is an old pot-head with a big mouth, her husband "Brown" (David Mann) wears the loudest pants you've ever seen, plus, as you'll soon discover, not everybody's home upstairs. Her son "Joshua" (Derek Luke) is a successful lawyer, but he's serious and not a raging comedic crack-up like the rest of his family.

It is at this point that what started out as a remarkably fast and hysterically comical influx of a film became a slow drama, and then a melodrama. Popping in and out between comedy and drama, I soon found myself asking if I was watching the same movie. There are for sure two movies lumped into one here.

There's an interesting cast of characters at every point. We have a godly, strict church lady, Ellen (Viola Davis), who hits the streets looking to help bring God to the junkies. One junkie in particular who needs her is named Candace, "Candie." Candie, played by the symmetrically pleasing Keshia Knight Pulliam ("Rudy Huxtable" from The Cosby Show), has a history with Joshua. From this history comes the drama.

I was scarcely interested in the life of a lawyer who is about to marry another lawyer and has to fight off falling in love with a flame from his past. I wanted to see more comedy because the drama was, at times, overbearing (and I'm not one for mixing comedy and drama, anyway). It came in the form of a number of badly performed scenes, one of which was a poorly acted crying scene on the part of Joshua, the likes of which I've never beheld on screen. The entire theatre literally burst into laughter during it, and yet it was supposed to be a somber, moving moment (or if it wasn't, my hat goes off to the director for getting one by me!)

In the name of comedy, you find yourself forgiving rough acting, but there's as much to forgive in the way of a few unrealistic encounters. They could have at least done without having militant pimps recruit hookers by raping and beating them! Minus those concerns, I felt like I was watching a good SNL skit crossed with an episode of Sanford & Son.

The drama I didn't like; the humor I liked (would have been much more without the drama). Though it's not noticeable until the end, the humor and the drama do finally come together in a rather rejuvenating way. The lives of the characters converge and a satisfying ending is the result.

Come to think of it, I have a new hero in Madea...and hey, I think she's sexy no matter what anyone else says!

(JH)

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Director: Tyler Perry
Starring: Tyler Perry "Madea," "Joe," "Brian," Derek Luke "Joshua Hardaway," Keshia Knight Pulliam "Candace Washington," David Mann "Brown," Tamela J. Mann "Cora," RonReaco Lee "Chuck," Ion Overman "Linda," Vanessa Ferlito "Donna," Viola Davis "Ellen," Sofía Vergara "T.T.," Robin Coleman "Big Sal," Bobbi Baker "Tanya," Aisha Hinds "D.A. Fran Walker," Benjamín Benítez "Arthur"
Genre: Comedy

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