Madea Goes to Jail

Crowd-pleasing African-American filmmaker Tyler Perry has been heralded as an entrepreneur, a populist, and an expert on the wants of female audiences, but none of that would have happened if he weren't also an expert drag performer. Mabel “Madea” Simmons, the crazed Atlanta matriarch of his family sagas Diary of a Mad Black Woman (2005), Madea's Family Reunion (2006), and this enjoyable comedy, is quicker on the uptake than any of Eddie Murphy's fat ladies, quicker even than Flip Wilson's Geraldine Jones. Also good for a few laughs is her white-haired brother, Joe (also played by Perry), a hopeless pothead who attaches the ventilator tube from his oxygen tank to his bong. Like all Perry's movies to include Madea (southern for “mother dear”), Madea Goes to Jail interweaves the heroine's antics with a melodramatic subplot, this one especially well acted by Derek Luke, as an attorney trying to save an old friend (Keshia Knight Pulliam) from a life of prostitution, and Viola Davis (Oscar-nominated for Doubt), as a straight-talking prison minister. PG-13, 103 min.

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