Movie Review: Madea Goes to Jail (2009)

Watching a Tyler Perry movie is like wandering around in a fog of cinematic confusion. Invariably the question arises, “Just what kind of movie am I watching?” A melodrama? A comedy? A morality tale? A message movie? A Sunday morning sermon? All five in one? Radical shifts in genre, tone and mood incline me to diagnose his work as bipolar, if applying psychiatric diagnoses to films were possible.

But when it comes to criticisms about his directorial aims and style, it appears Perry is much like his beloved character, the feisty, gun-toting matriarch Madea — what Perry does, he does his own way; critical concerns don’t appear to be of any concern to him.

Madea Goes to Jail presents two equally-weighted storylines. The first one covers the efforts by assistant district attorney Joshua Hardaway (Derek Luke) to save from the streets old friend Candace Washington (Keshia Knight Pulliam). And in the second, the story of how her anger management problems send Madea (Tyler Perry) straight to jail. Madea’s police and courtroom antics are well known to Perry fans; her clashes with the law are the running joke in the previous three movies. So landing in jail is simply the natural progression of that storyline. Madea has the misfortune, however, to come before the judges of television court — making brief cameo appearances are the hanging-judge Greg Mathis (Judge Mathis) and the no-nonsense Mablean Ephriam (Divorce Court). Even Dr. Phil joins the fun as Madea’s court-appointed anger management therapist.

This time out, Perry wields a tighter reign on the proceedings. There’s a lot less sermonizing, which is a good thing. But what he always brings to his stories are his deep Christian beliefs and values — loyalty, friendship, honesty, accountability, forgiveness and redemption. In the past, he’s used a heavy hand integrating those values with his story. In Madea Goes to Jail, he uses more subtlety, and the result is less preachy.

However the juxtaposition of the two stories, the melodramatic complications of Joshua and Candace to the over-the-top legal antics of Madea, is akin to experiencing cinematic whiplash. The stories aren’t integrated in any way. Each one could easily have been made into a movie of its own.

But what would a Tyler Perry/Madea movie be without the trademark craziness and humor? Fans will be thrilled to know that Madea runs amok and takes no prisoners. It’s her show. For me, of all the Madea films, this is the most unbridled and hysterically funny one yet. It’s important to note for viewers unfamiliar with the previous Madea films, that the humor here isn’t subtle or sophisticated. But if you like broad physical comedy with a revenge-seeking, 6 foot 5 inch grandmother inclined to tackle police, judges, civilians, and cell mates alike, then you may enjoy Madea Goes to Jail.

That being said, Tyler Perry isn’t Spike Lee. He’s unlikely to receive any major movie awards, at least not anytime soon. But as the African American experience continues to make strides into major studio productions, Perry serves as a vital voice for the values of the black community.

Critical Movie Critic Rating:
3 Star Rating: Average


Movie Review: Doubt (2008)
Movie Review: The Uninvited (2009)

The Critical Movie Critics

I've been a fanatical movie buff since I was a little girl, thanks to my parents who encouraged my brother and I to watch anything and everything we wanted, even the stuff deemed inappropriate for minors. I work, write, and reside in San Francisco the city where I was born and bred.

'Movie Review: Madea Goes to Jail (2009)' have 11 comments

  1. The Critical Movie Critics

    February 22, 2009 @ 4:10 pm Deon Williams

    “Perry serves as a vital voice for the values of the black community.”

    You’re kidding right? His movies do nothing to empower African Americans. If anything he is taking advantage of the entire experience.

  2. The Critical Movie Critics

    February 25, 2009 @ 3:06 am gerlinsek

    just because he was too good on acting, i should say this movie Tyler Perry’s Madea Goes to Jail (2009) is totally a successes to him. many people are love to see him in action because he was very simple actor. not trying some thing extraordinary. i really enjoy this movie.

  3. The Critical Movie Critics

    February 25, 2009 @ 10:34 am p

    tyler perry does not speak for the values of the black community in total…his films only portray a particular aspect of the community..and its a shame his films are not put together too well, they tend to be patronizing…why this director won’t make two separate types of movies is beyond me(comedy & drama)…this film should have been about madea period….which is exactly what the title implies.

    The black community is NOT monolithic; not all of us subscribe to christian theology and envision life as simply a litany of moral tales….life is a bit more complicated and nuanced than perry is willing to explore in his films…

    It also disturbs me that perry seems to hate women as black women are weak, conniving and simple-minded or meek in his characterizations.

    it is too bad that at this moment, this is all the black movie going crowd has to choose from concerning black cinema.

  4. The Critical Movie Critics

    March 1, 2009 @ 9:30 am Andy

    Great review, will be watching this on dvd when it comes out near my dvd store

  5. The Critical Movie Critics

    July 28, 2009 @ 12:29 pm rock

    i am from is turkey and some english , very very beatufil film, populer is turkey cinema secroty.

  6. The Critical Movie Critics

    July 29, 2009 @ 10:03 am Berkay Sozbilir

    hmm, i don’t like Tyler Perry’s movies.


    i don’t know. (:

  7. The Critical Movie Critics

    November 11, 2009 @ 7:43 am priyanka

    verry beautiful film…

  8. The Critical Movie Critics

    November 13, 2009 @ 6:26 am sunil

    is it priyanka ?

  9. The Critical Movie Critics

    November 24, 2009 @ 7:20 pm Dental Plan

    Not necessarily my favorite Tyler Perry movie, but it was still a pretty decent film.

  10. The Critical Movie Critics

    May 1, 2010 @ 8:38 pm Richmond

    This movie was ok. Slow but entertaining.

  11. The Critical Movie Critics

    August 12, 2010 @ 12:11 pm Composter

    Ughh… I was forced to watch this movie not too long ago. I’ve never heard of Tyler Perry but I don’t think I’ll watch another of his movies.

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