Madea Goes to Jail [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Lions Gate Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Jeremiah Chin (30th August 2011).
The Film

Going into the third Madea (Tyler Perry) centric movie, Perry is getting ready to add more to the fictional background. Don’t second guess; Madea has changed, it’s still the same drag queen/grandmother character that has been powering Tyler Perry’s rise to prominence, just this time there’s a touch more story to be added. In “Madea Goes to Jail” (2009) Perry is more intent on perpetuating his brand completing the “Meet the Browns” (2008) crossover and making sure the Tyler Perry series stays strong while demonstrating just how popular Perry and Madea have become.

After being arrested in a breif stint in “Meet the Browns,” Madea is put back in front of a judge but has her case quickly dismissed due to the officers overlooking Madea’s Miranda rights. From the prosecutor’s side Madea’s case is one of a handful of injustices before the court that day as the young prosecutor Joshua Hardaway (Derek Luke) sees an old friend turned prostitute Candace (Keisha Knight Pulliam) and recuses himself from the case, turning it over to his fiancé Linda Davis (Ion Overman). Once the case is dismissed Joshua tries to catch up with Candace, buying her lunch and putting her in contact with people who can help her get out of the life of prostitution, but of course this angers Linda who doesn’t think that Joshua should be associating with people still living on the street. But of course Madea can’t stay out of trouble either when she drops a woman’s car from a fork lift at the K-Mart and Judge Greg Mathis (himself) throws the book at her, putting Madea in Jail.

Unlike “Diary of a Mad Black Woman” (2005) or “Madea’s Family Reunion” (2006) the stories seem more loosely connected leaving you to wonder what the main plot of the film is between Madea’s jail time (that doesn’t come until nearly an hour into the film) and the Joshua/Candace/Lisa triangle. Rather than a narrative that frames the narrative (“Diary”) or a interconnecting event (“Family Reunion”), “Madea Goes to Jail” lacks the cohesion other than the fact that the attorney that tries the cases of Madea and Candace is the same corrupt person, and they attend the same class in jail. Perry as a writer obviously has a huge array of storylines bouncing around in his head, pushing their way onto the screen, but from a pure plot perspective depending on Madea and Joe (Perry) for comedic relief to break the tension of the movie is more of an easy out than an ongoing story.

But while the plot may disconnect more than Perry’s other two films, the same old types filter their way into the story. The light-skinned fiancé Lisa is main villain of the film, someone who has forgotten her community outside of the upperclass, though Joshua the darkskinned husband takes the role of hero rescuing Candace and Madea from jail after their wrongful incarceration. However this is still the same sort of male savior complex that is demonstrated by the other romantic figures in Perry’s films, simultaneously affirming the strength of black women and the prerequisite need for salvation through relationships with black men.

What struck me the most though was the sheer scale of Perry’s brand that infiltrates the movie. Perry recruits most of daytime talk television for cameos with appearances from Judge Mablean Ephriam and Judge Greg Mathis of daytime Court television fame, Whoopi Goldberg on “The View” (1997-Present), Dr. Phil, and a montage of black radio personalities to talk about Madea. Perry is not only showing his hand on one of his major demographics, but showing the power of his brand now that he has more recognizable faces in his films. Plus there’s a guest appearance by Sofía Vergara as “T.T.,” Madea’s cell mate who is generally insane with some supplemental jokes on her accent, really disappointing.

Overall, it’s following the same formula of the other Tyler Perry movies and hitting the same big money result. It’s one of the most profitable film franchises for it’s budget and it just keeps on going. Tyler Perry + Movie = $$$. (Unless it’s “For Colored Girls” (2010) which is a shame on many levels). But really Perry is letting more slide in his filmmaking and storytelling, putting together stories that aren’t necessarily connected, while shifting up a few of his previous typical characters for a few new roles. What it all means though is that everyone knows what they’re in for with a Tyler Perry movie, and any investor knows what they are going to see huge returns because Perry has become more than a writer, director, producer, actor whatever he’s involved in. He’s become a brand. Tyler Perry is not a businessman; he’s a business, man.

Video

With the biggest budget for a Perry movie so far, it shows in the clarity of visuals. Presented in a 1.78:1 widescreen in 1080p 24/fps with AVC MPEG-4 encoding, the visuals are clean as usual and the colors come through brightly. The lighting has continued to improve over time as it feels lests like a filmed stage production and more like an actual film.

Audio

Similarly the audio is crisp in its English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 presentation (48kHz/24-bit). The film balances out it’s dialogue with Perry’s original music well, and the sound transfer matches the original production. There are no gaps in the levels or pops in the audio, but with such an emphasis on dialogue and incidental music there’s not a lot that can go wrong.
There is also a Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 track with English and Spanish subtitles though the English subtitles misspell Jena (the town in Louisiana) as Gina.

Extras

The collection of special features that seem to decrease with each new Perry film; becoming less insightful and more filler. Here there a total of six featurettes, though none are in high definition and a collection of bonus trailers.

“Madea is Back” featurette runs for 6 minutes and 48 seconds, Perry, producer Reuben Cannon and other cast and crew members discuss putting together the film, how it differs from the movie and aiming for more of a comedy with “Madea Goes to Jail.” It’s a typical Tyler Perry lovefest where everyone compliments Perry for his creation of characters and how Madea reminds them of someone they know.

“Leroy ‘Law’ Brown” runs for 1 minute and 58 seconds. This featurette is a mix of a fake commercial for a fake legal corporation run by Mister Brown mixed with a pilot for a daytime television court show. It’s about as funny as you would think.

“Looking for the Big House” runs for 4 minutes. This featurette talks with production designer Ina Mayhew and assistant producer Roger M. Bobb to get a sense of what a women’s prison would look like from a design perspective and scouting for locations. Perry joins in to talk about filming in a prison that was partially operational. The one question that never gets answered is whether or not the film helped to fund the corrections system in Georgia, a cruel joke considering the Georgia Department of Corrections disproportionately incarcerates Black men and recently went through a prisoner strike over the conditions.

“You Have the Right to Remain Silent!” runs for 3 minutes and 57 seconds, this featurette features Judge Mathis and the same producers, cast and crew that have spoken before, this time looking at the police filming sequences from pre production through editing. It’s a mildly interesting featurette, but really nothing you haven’t seen in a featurette before.

“Bringing in the Heavy Hitters” featurette runs for 4 minutes and 59 seeconds, and as the title implies it revolves around the huge amounts of cameo appearances in the film. From the judges to “The View” it’s more praise for the cameo actors and talking about trying to add the realism of Madea’s world. It just gives some extra coverage to the high profile extras in the film.

“Madea’s Crazy” featurette runs for 4 minutes and 40 seconds, looks more at how Madea is off the wall and casting Robin Coleman as Big Sal in the film, also working on the fight sequence with Madea, and a couple other stunts that Madea pulls.

Bonus trailers on the disc are for:

- “For Colored Girls” runs for 2 minutes and 27 seconds.
- “Tyler Perry on Blu-Ray” runs for 52 seconds.
- “Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire” runs for 2 minute and 31 seconds.
- “Madea’s Big Happy Family: The Play” 56 seconds.
- “Why Did I Get Married Too?” runs for 2 minutes and 1 second.

Overall

The Film: F Video: A- Audio: A- Extras: F Overall: C-

 


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