OK, first and for the record, for anyone who's never been here before, I am a big Tyler Perry fan and supporter, so please don't read too much into that headline.
Although Madea is pretty far from my favorite of his creations, I'm still convinced that "Madea Goes to Jail" will be a winner, both for its solid cast and because, well, Mr. Perry hasn't completely failed me yet, so he's earned more than a bit of my trust.
But what continues to vex me more than a bit is that, even on a weekend with only two major releases coming out, the only one that gets screened for critics is a teen cheerleader/sex comedy titled "Fired Up!" (and starring Claire's boyfriend from "Heroes" and a star of my beloved "Rocket Science," Nicholas D'Agosto.) Surely, though he clearly doesn't need them, it should finally be time for Perry's flicks to get some scrutiny from critics (though maybe not for anything as silly as Madea.)
The title of this post actually comes from what two co-workers - neither of whom have ever seen a Tyler Perry movie - said to me this week about "Madea Goes to Jail," comparing it, of course, to the work of the late Jim Varney. If you'll indulge me for a sec, that just set my easily occupied mind journeying for a few minutes, so bear with me.
First off, beyond any racial underpinning, I'd have to say 1) the comparison is sometimes pretty accurate and 2) I actually liked Jim Varney quite a bit, if not always Ernest (just for proof that he was actually a pretty damn fine comedic actor, I've included a clip from "Ernest Goes to Jail" below.)
They each engage in the broadest kind of comedy, but as anyone who's dared (and I only say dared because I know so many people haven't yet) to see a Tyler Perry movie knows, with his flicks you usually get a lot more. Though not yet a first-rate director, he is an outstanding writer and creates well-rounded characters who have a real human appeal, especially his women. For the best examples you can watch on DVD, check out what he did for Kathy Bates in "The Family that Preys" or Stringer Bell (Idris Elba) in "Daddy's Little Girls." Or his best ensemble comedy/drama, "Madea's Family Reunion."
I tried more than once to watch his TV show "House of Payne," but just couldn't make it through an entire episode, mostly because in tone they're a lot more Ernest than anything he's done for the big screen, without all the other good qualities.
So, what will you get if you take a chance on "Madea Goes to Jail"? Well, Madea, of course, but also Derek Luke as an assistant district attorney, Keshia Knight Pulliam (yes, Rudy Huxtable) as a prostitute who catches his eye, and the return of the very funny David and Tamela Mann as Madea's supportive relations. Also in supporting roles are Oscar nominee Viola Davis (for Supporting Actress in "Doubt"), and one of my favorite young actresses, Keke Palmer of "Akeelah and the Bee." It's also a return to Atlanta, where Tyler Perry's films are always at their best.
If you weren't going to see this at the beginning of this post, I'm fairly certain I didn't do anything to change your mind, but if you do go see it Saturday afternoon at the Amstar/Grand cinemas in Macon, you'll find me there laughing. Very hard and right out loud.
And, as promised, here's that clip of what happens when Ernest meets a leaky pen. Priceless. And, because nothing says Friday better than Quentin Tarantino and Nazis, I've also included the first three posters I could find for his World War II flick coming in August, "Inglourious Basterds," and then a trailer that adds more footage than was available in the teaser from a few weeks ago. Even if this somehow turns to be awful, it should still at least be a fascinating mess. Peace out.