“Well when you gettin’ “got” and somebody done “got” you and you go “get” them, when you get ’em everybody’s gon’ get got.”
When Tyler Perry started writing his small plays, he probably never had a clue just how far it might all go from there. The plays had a solid audience, but there was always concern that the appeal would be too narrow. That didn’t stop Perry from putting together a few relatively low-budget films located in his adopted film hometown of Atlanta. For the most part the studio got pretty much what it expected. The payoffs weren’t huge, but they more than covered the costs. Perry’s creativity attracted some big-name actors and cameos, and that wasn’t bad for business either. The mainstay of his moderate success was his cross-dressed character, Madea. Mabel Simmons was a wildcat old lady. She didn’t take no “stuff” and she spoke her mind. The racial profiling here was a bit rough, but nothing more than the blacksploitation films of the 1970’s. Anyway, it was all harmless fun, and no one seemed to be all that upset over the characterizations. There was talk of sending Madea to that big old folks’ home in the sky when the numbers for Madea Goes To Jail came in. They weren’t good. They were extraordinary. The film pulled in over $90 million at the domestic box office with very little money spent. Tyler Perry, that one-man writer/director/producer/ and three-character actor, had a bona fide hit on his hands. And we’ve continued to deal with loud-mouth Madea ever since.
Madea (Perry) has become public enemy number one. As the film opens, she’s leading the Atlanta PD on an OJ-style ride through Atlanta. When the heat finally catches up, it’s Rodney King all over again. Except it’s Madea who’s beating up on the cops. She manages to rough them up so badly that they forget to read her her rights. Even with a rap sheet that goes back to the time she was six years old and includes assault, fraud, identity theft and even attempted murder. Madea walks out of the courtroom a free woman. Not to worry, however. As the Judge (Ephraim) informs her beat up cops: “You couldn’t pay Madea to stay out of trouble”.
Meanwhile the court has other business. Candy (Pulliam) has been arrested for prostitution, but the assistant DA has to recuse himself from the case. It turns out that Candy is an old college friend, and it’s tearing him up to see her strung out and on the streets. He decides to help her out, which doesn’t sit well with his uptown fiancée Linda (Overman) who doesn’t want to see him waste his time with “those people”.
As for Madea, the judge was absolutely right and Madea’s temper gets the better of her. Even a court-ordered session with Dr. Phil doesn’t keep her from using a forklift to destroy a woman’s car who was unfortunate enough to jump Madea’s place for a parking space at K-Mart. This time it isn’t the easy judge. Now Judge Mathis is on the case, and he comes down hard on Madea. In the best line of the movie, he asks his bailiff what time he had on his watch. Bad news for Madea. It’s 5 to 10, and that’s exactly the sentence the judge hands Madea. Meanwhile Linda has found a way to get rid of Candy, who is getting entirely too much of her future husband’s attention. She pads Candy’s case file and the girl gets 17 years. This all brings the two together for a short time in prison, where Madea is large and in charge.
I like the Madea films better than I once thought I would. They’re funny and often clever. Now this isn’t rolling-on-the-floor, Sanford And Son funny. But there are moments when you understand just how Perry managed to ride what is essentially a drag act to the top. The problem is that you don’t get enough of Madea. The title might say Madea Goes To Jail, but it takes over an hour in a 109 minute film to get her there. The movie continually moves between the Madea comedy and the more serious story of redemption and faith. Both are fine movies, but I’m not sure it always works interchanging them so much. I got more mood swings out of this movie than a pregnant alcoholic entering menopause. I know Perry finds these faith messages important, and I don’t have trouble with them at all. I just can’t seem to get my bearings, and it causes the entertainment value to drop, at least for me.
For the rest of you, it boils down to how much of a Madea fan you might be. This one likely has more than some but not enough of the title character. It’s a fusion of two film styles that Perry obviously has found his niche doing. And the film did pull in that 90 large. It is notable to point out that half of it was made on the opening weekend. The core audience will come for their fix. I’m just not sure the rest of us can handle the ups and downs of comedy and faith. The final analysis for me would be to recommend the thing as a rainy night rental. You will get in more than a few chuckles.
Perry does attract the talent. My wife was the first to notice that prostitute Candy was none other than Cliff Huxtable’s little girl Rudy, played by Keshia Knight Pullliam. I guess she was still looking for the right Bud. Dr. Phil, Judge Mablean Ephraim, and Judge Mathis all play themselves, as does the crew from The View. Of course, Perry does his usual double duty as Madea, Uncle Joe and Brian.
Madea Goes To Jail is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC MPEG-4 codec at an average 22 mbps. Perry isn’t one for elaborate sets or image creativity. His style is always about “keeping it real”, which is exactly the best thing that can be said about this film. Black levels are impressive, even if they are rarely found on this movie. Everything is sharp, and the print is flawless. It’s as close to reference as you’ll find, even if it’s not one of the more dazzling visual films.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is all about the dialog. There isn’t much in the way of surround use or ambient sounds to be found. There are a few moments when the sub really comes alive, however. Dialog is fine. You can hear everyone, and the placement works. Most of this is very front-and-center, which is likely what you expect from this kind of film.
All of the extras are in Standard Definition and ported from the DVD release:
Madea’s Back: (6:48) Cast and crew talk about their favorite Madea routines as the feature focuses on the character. There’s plenty of Uncle Joe talk, as well.
Leroy “Law” Brown: (1:58) Mock legal ad that shows the Brown character advertising his legal services.
Looking For The Big House: (4:00) This feature looks at the prison location.
You Have The Right To Remain Silent: (3:57) Go behind the scenes for Madea’s arrest scene. The film crew used real Atlanta cops and PD equipment for the scene.
Bringing In The Heavy Hitters: (4:59) Here you’ll find a profile on the film’s cameos.
Madea’s Crazy: (4:40) A look at the stunts of Madea.
One day I’m going to dump all of the Madea films into one huge computer file. Then I’m going to cut out all of the non-Madea moments from each film and attempt to edit the remaining pieces into a Madea epic. I’ll likely put it on-line and it’ll be popular as heck. Then Lionsgate will sue me, and Perry will send a couple of guys over to kick the crap out of me. Of course, six months later he’ll be releasing the final result under his own title and claim the idea was his. I might even get a few hospital bills paid to keep me quiet. Because he knows I’m right. It’s all about Madea. “King Kong ain’t got nothin’ on her.”