Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 8
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
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For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

MADEA REALLY DOES GO TO JAIL: Mable “Madea” Simmons (Tyler Perry, center) is on her way to the lockup after she lost control of her temper in a shopping mall’s parking lot.

Madea Goes to Jail: Tyler Perry’s in Drag Again in Another Morality Play

Kam Williams

Tyler Perry is a master at making modern morality plays which address an array of concerns of the African-American community. What makes his films feel so authentic is that his characters reflect black culture in a manner which is instantly recognizable and thus effortlessly resonates with the audience as being real. In addition, Perry also knows how to mix in comic relief without diluting the power of the sober message he’s trying to deliver.

Loosely based on the stage production of the same name, Madea Goes to Jail might be Tyler Perry’s best endeavor to date. The film stars Tyler, back in drag, as the sassy pistol-packing Mable “Madea” Simmons. He heads a talented cast which includes Viola Davis, Derek Luke, Ion Overman, Keisha Knight Pulliam, and David and Tamela J. Mann.

The film also has an incredible number of celebrity cameos, most notably Dr. Phil; TV Judges Greg Mathis and Mablean Ephriam; Reverend Al Sharpton; comedian Steve Harvey; DJs Tom Joyner and Michael Baisden; CNN news anchor Tony Harris; and The View talk show hosts Whoopi Goldberg, Joy Behar, Sherri Shepherd. and Elisabeth Hasselbeck. Fortunately balancing all of these egos produces a hilarious film, and the finished product is a rollicking roller coaster ride that ought to be fun for the whole family.

At the beginning of the movie we find Madea in court before Judge Mablean who lets the hell-raising granny off with a slap on the wrist and a stern warning not to lead the police on another high-speed freeway chase. Instead of landing behind bars, she is ordered to undergo treatment for anger management with Dr. Phil. While on the couch, she and the psychiatrist engage in a hilarious exchange that is reminiscent of Abbott and Costello’s classic “Who’s on First?” routine.

Needless to say, the therapy doesn’t help, and Madea goes berserk again when a customer steals her parking spot at the mall. After wrecking the woman’s car with a forklift, Madea is arrested again but ends up this time in front of a very incensed Judge Mathis who decides to teach her a lesson by sentencing her to 5-10 years in jail.

At the same time, there’s a parallel plot unfolding that involves Assistant District Attorney Joshua Hardaway (Luke), who is engaged to Linda (Overman). She is a snobbish colleague who doesn’t understand why Hardaway even cares about trying to rehabilitate his former girlfriend Candy (Pulliam) after she has become a streetwalker. With the help of a prison minister (Davis), Josh does his best to get his former girlfriend the help she needs, a decision which destabilizes his once solid relationship with his current girlfriend Linda. Everything comes to a head when Madea and Candy cross paths in a correctional facility, which leads to a tidy resolution which not only ties up the loose ends but may even elicit a few tears from the viewers.

Remember to stay for the closing credits in order to see some additional give and take between Madea and Dr. Phil.

Excellent (four stars). Rated PG-13 for violence, sexual situations, mature themes, and drug use. Running time: 103 minutes. Studio: Lions Gate Films.

For more movie summaries, see Kam’s Kapsules.

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