Perry’s latest installment weak

By David Orlikoff

Tyler Perry has made quite a name for himself with his plays, books, movies and syndicated TV show. His multimedia approach to entertainment, alongside some collaboration with Oprah, demonstrates his will to capture the hearts and minds of his audience. He has turned himself into a brand, as evidenced by the full title of his newest feature film, Tyler Perry’s Madea Goes to Jail.

It is unfortunate that Perry doesn’t have more to offer the fans who deemed his name marquee -worthy. As with any brand, Madea will surely have its followers, but this low-quality installment of Perry’s does not deserve the recognition it receives.

It functions only as an extension of the brand, and for that reason alone, enjoys a wide theatrical release rather than straight-to-DVD distribution. One must wonder, if this were Perry’s original opus, would he have been able to build the empire he commands?

The film moves like a bug, meandering disgustingly in no particular direction. Even given such a specific promissory title, this film requires Judge Mablean Ephriam of “Divorce Court” to speak directly to the audience, assuring them that Madea will eventually end up behind bars. Celebrity cameos like this are the only thing holding the film together for well over an hour before said incarceration.

The acting, especially in scenes with Madea, is terrible, and in most cases the actors appear to be ad-libbing. At times, after an awkward pause or rant by Perry as Madea, a character will blurt out something seemingly out of an Intro to Improv class.

“I’ve got this pamphlet here on anger management,” explains Madea’s daughter in a fruitless effort to advance the plot. With credit to the actors, it appears as if most scenes were done in just one or two takes, with very slipshod editing. Had the script seen any form of revision, many of these problems might have been alleviated. Madea lacks form, function and, most of all, oversight.

The screenplay is based on a stage play by Perry, and it seems obvious that he either didn’t know or didn’t care to make an appropriate transition to film. Violently obtuse product placement makes the case that Perry is simply cashing in on his celebrity and probably knows this is a bad film.

Madea is only actually in the film for about 20 minutes, meanwhile, the audience watches Derek Luke as Assistant District Attorney Joshua Hardaway as he deals with his fiance and an old friend who’s fallen on hard times. This story is more conducive to the film medium, but is beset by its own issues.

Not the least of these is Madea herself, who destroys the credibility of the melodrama in every failed attempt at comic relief. It is a very odd juxtaposition between two unrelated stories.

The presence of Madea in this film, which is really about lawyers, obviously demonstrates inarticulate branding, though it might also speak to the need for such a predictable, made-for-TV melodrama to be broken up in order to be tolerable. So while it might have been a good idea to mash two random entities together, the execution, again due largely to terrible editing and script, leaves much to be desired.

Admittedly, the melodrama works, as much as one ever does. Perry correctly follows the formula to bring a Lifetime-esque tale revamped for African-American audiences to the big screen.

The film is complete with Jesus and a Mack Truck of a message running over the audience and then backing up. There are some funny lines, but they detract from the movie. Overall, the film is not terrible, but it is not good either.

Perry won’t win any new converts with this latest edition, but his established fans will most likely forgive the flaws and laugh alongside his now famous mad, black woman.