Elaine at the movies:

Alex Schaaf

Perhaps I was wildly misinformed about this movie. I was prepared for a light, fun, perhaps over-the-top comedy. The previews did a very good job of making me want to see it. I figured, even if the rest of the movie is composed entirely of stupid humor, seeing Madea converse with Dr. Phil was bound to be worth it.
Good gracious, was I wrong. I spent the first hour of “Madea Goes to Jail” simply attempting to figure out whether it was a comedy or a drama. The previews bill the movie as a comedy; they allude to nothing profound. Previews suggest a plot centered on a sassy grandmotherly type and her escapades through the jail system. Tyler Perry plays Madea, a frank woman with a distinctive vernacular. These elements spell comedy.
Unfortunately, those scenes that actually involve Madea are few and far between. If one was to cut everything except her humorous scenes, the result would be a – significantly better – movie of approximately 25-30 minutes. And yes, most, if not all, of the laugh-out-loud bits are showcased in the previews.
So with what, you might ask, do they fill the rest of the time? Besides these 30 minutes of humor, you have to sit through another 80 minutes of painfully uninteresting dialogue and drama. The juxtaposition of two barely related storylines creates an uncomfortable clash that leaves the audience reeling from trying to jump back and forth between levity and attempted profundity.
The primary plot is never even mentioned in the previews: a young lawyer reunites with a friend from his past who has landed herself in trouble via prostitution. This storyline occupies most of the screenplay, even though none of its clips are shown in previews or alluded to in the title or even plot summaries.
Shockingly enough, I thought I was seeing a movie about Madea. Instead, I am stuck watching an overemotional, discordant drama that I would not pay to see had I known. Furthermore, I felt compelled to see it through because I did not want my $6.50 to go to waste. Plus, a scathing review is more credible if the reviewer has seen the film in its sub-par entirety.
Madea does deliver several hilarious, quotable lines. The problem is that Tyler Perry does not emphasize these moments enough. The film would be better with a cohesive focus. It would be far better were it to actually showcase Madea as promised by previews. In short, “Madea Goes to Jail” would benefit from deciding whether it was a comedy or a drama instead of providing a shoddy performance of each.
To gain the most enjoyment out of the film, I suggest watching only those scenes in which Madea appears. This will both canvas the entire worthwhile plot and yield all of the funny lines. Skip the rest – I promise you will not miss much. Those scenes that actually are true to the title and previews are worth several laughs. However, the bottom line is this: The 30 minutes of Madea are neither worth $6.50 nor 80 minutes of the other stuff.