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Tyler Perry's Madea Goes to Jail
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that, like all of his Madea films, Tyler Perry's Madea Goes to Jail alternates between comedy (the parts featuring the Madea character) and drama (a subplot featuring a prostitute). Violence is both comic (Madea resists arrest) and disturbing (a pimp abuses young prostitutes), and there are several sexual references -- to prostitution, prison romance, and more. Although the consumerism isn't too overt, there are many scenes of cigarette and marijuana smoke, as well as drinking. Language includes "hell," "damn," and the like.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
TYLER PERRY'S MADEA GOES TO JAIL brings back the writer-director-producer's popular character Mabel "Madea" Simmons (Perry), the no-nonsense (i.e. crazy) old Atlantan grandmother you do not want to cross. After being wronged in a K-Mart parking lot, Madea -- who utters her famous catchphrase "I ain't afraid of the popo" -- wrecks a rude woman's sports car and ends up in prison. Meanwhile, assistant district attorney Josh (Derek Luke) is dealing with conflicting priorities. He should be planning his fairy-tale wedding to wealthy fiancee Lisa (Ion Overman), but when his estranged childhood friend, Candy (Keshia Knight Pulliam), is arrested for prostitution, he makes it his mission to save her from her destructive lifestyle.
Is it any good?
Madea fans are a loyal bunch, and they're unlikely to be disappointed with the latest installment in Perry's franchise. Madea continues to "get" those who "got" her and gives lip to everyone from her poor, put-upon daughter to her raunchy brother Joe (also Perry) to Dr. Phil and Judge Mathis.
But those unfamiliar with Perry's films won't be converted into fans by this broad, heavy-handed comedy. The morality-play subplot in Madea Goes to Jail is particularly ridiculous. Although Luke is a fine actor and does his best as a well-meaning, generous man, Knight Pulliam (best known as little Rudy from The Cosby Show) isn't at all believable as a streetwalker. Supporting actresses Viola Davis and Vanessa Ferlito are both good as, respectively, a minister who dedicates herself to getting women off the street and a prostitute who looks out for Candy. But the Candy-Josh-Lisa love triangle is so predictable that the outcome loses its emotional punch.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Madea Goes to Jail's message of forgiveness and personal responsibility. Does that come through amid all of the broad humor?
How is Madea represented? Does she have redeeming characteristics, or is she just a caricature? Do you think Madea is right that parents shouldn't be blamed for their children's failures?
Why do you think Tyler Perry is so popular? Have you seen his other movies? What do they have in common? Who are they targeted at, and why do they appeal to that audience? Do you like him better as his character Madea or as a "regular" actor? Why?
- In theaters: February 20, 2009
- On DVD or streaming: June 16, 2009
- Cast: Derek Luke, Keshia Knight Pulliam, Tyler Perry
- Director: Tyler Perry
- Studio: Lionsgate
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 103 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: mature thematic material, drug content, some violence and sexual situations