madea-goes-to-jail_web.jpgWe all know and love Tyler Perry. We make it possible for him to sell out his movies and plays. We watch his TV series religiously. We love Tyler Perry.

There always comes a time, especially in Hollywood, when artists are so great in their careers that no matter what they do, everyone tells them they’re doing a good job.  No matter how outlandish, how absurd, how stupid, or how fake their work is, people will tell them it’s creative and genius.

Because these artists are rich and famous, people tend to tell them what they want to hear so they can keep leeching off of them.

Of course, these same people are quick to turn on an artist when they fail to sell tickets or lose TV viewers. Now, I love Tyler Perry like everyone else.  But I think he’s getting too relaxed in his movie-making; or he’s still spreading himself too thin.

Perry’s latest movie, which he wrote, directed, and in which he is the star, is Madea Goes to Jail.  The play of the same name is awesome. 
(My favorite portion is Christian Keys.)  The film version is about, of course, Madea going to jail, and about a young girl who prostitutes herself because she feels all alone in the world and thinks this profession is the only way for her to make a buck.

What’s good about Perry’s direction and adaptation of his play is that it’s real.  Candace (played by Keshia Knight Pulliam) is a drug-addicted prostitute.  She is so knocked down by life that she doesn’t even care for herself.  She and her friend, Donna (Vanessa Ferlito), look like they don’t even shower or have a place to live.  They spend their lives turning tricks for men at night.

Their story is quite sad.  Unfortunately, their story happens to a lot of young, black women.  They meet the wrong guy, and the next thing they know, they’re walking the street.

I also enjoyed the comedy of the film.  Tyler Perry is truly funny.  But the two plots of the film don’t mesh well together.  These two storylines are so completely different that when the scenes interchange, it’s almost like looking at two different movies.  There wasn’t a good weave between the stories, and that’s where Perry made his big mistake for this film.

I also am not sure I like the portrayal of Oscar-nominated actress Viola Davis as Minister Ellen.  She hands out clean needles and mysterious pills in packages to all the prostitutes as a way of getting in touch with them and bringing them to Christ.  Ellen’s method of ministering is completely unorthodox, and seems to work.  But Ellen herself is a little too rude.  I know it’s tough love, but love isn’t supposed to be that tough.

Perry as Joe, Brian and Madea is the comic relief of the film.  The best parts are when the previously named characters are pitted against each other in verbal matches. Madea’s scenes with Dr. Phil, however, are not funny, but tiring.  I’m not even sure why he was in the movie.  Dr. Phil is as funny as a colonoscopy. 

I would also like to mention: Derek Luke (Joshua Hardaway) is a breath of fresh air as a caring, considerate man; Ion Overman (Linda) is the conniving, light-skinned villain who always shows up in Perry’s movies; RonReaco Lee (Chuck) is the good friend and great actor who deserves more screen time; David Mann (Mr. Brown) is subdued – he didn’t get a chance to sink into his character – Tamela Mann (Cora) is quite funny, and Bobbi Baker (Tanya) is the annoying friend that all women have.

A special note for Sofia Vergara (T. T.) going against type and playing an all-around crazy.  She is all flowers and brownies, but there’s a killer lurking in the background.  Vergara is usually colorful and vibrant.  In Jail, she’s cheerful and touched; a nice break for Vergara.

Did I enjoy myself in the movie theater?  Yes, I did.  Madea Goes to Jail is funny, despite some of the best scenes being played and re-played in trailers across the country. 

But Perry has set into a groove.  What has worked for his previous movies isn’t working right now.  He’s got too many people telling him how good he is.  Perry would do well to get away from all the “Yes” people for a little while. His storylines are topical and resonate with many people, but the delivery is a little off-putting. 

It’s time for a little change.