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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Madea Goes to Jail, locks out critics

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As usual, Tyler Perry has avoided pre-screening his latest film, Madea Goes to Jail, for critics, and one must acknowledge that this approach has worked out pretty well for him. Considering that Perry's huge box office success trickles down to the Atlanta economy, why complain? You can get at least a little taste of the new material from our Tyler Perry Primer from two years ago, which offers a point-by-point comparison of Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Madea's Family Reunion and the video version of the Madea Goes to Jail stage play:

The most overtly funny of the three, this stage play filmed at the Fox Theatre in 2005 feels like a musical version of a 1970s sitcom such as "Good Times." Perry and his cast's ease and interaction with the audience conveys Perry's deep-rooted popularity on the "chitlin circuit" of African-American stage plays.

Tomorrow's cinematic release will probably diverge sharply from the stage version in numerous ways. One of the most charming moments in the Madea Goes to Jail video has Perry and the cast essentially breaking character to sing old R&B standards, and I doubt that the film version will have the same kind of ingratiating looseness. One hopes the script will retain such local shout-outs as:

“I wasn’t about to go to jail in Conyers. I had to get to DeKalb County where I know somebody.”

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