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Movie Review

Tyler Perry’s Madea Goes to Jail

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic material, drug content, some violence and sexual situations.

Reviewed by: Mia J. Best

Very Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Comedy, Crime, Drama
1 hr. 43 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
February 20, 2009
DVD: June 16, 2009
Featuring: Tyler Perry, Derek Luke, Keshia Knight Pulliam, David Mann, Tamela J. Mann, RonReaco Lee, Ion Overman, Vanessa Ferlito, Viola Davis, Sofía Vergara, Robin Coleman, Bobbi Baker, Aisha Hinds, Benjamín Benítez, Karan Kendrick, Njema Williams, Richard Malcolm Reed, Judge Mathis, Eric V. Williams, Elizabeth Wells Berkes, Judge Mablean Ephraim, Dr. Phil McGraw, Whoopi Goldberg, Tom Joyner, Rev. Al Sharpton, Michael Baisden, Steve Harvey, Wanda Smith, Sybil Wilkes, Shirley Strawberry, J. Anthony Brown, Joy Behar, Sherri Shepherd, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, Theroun Patterson, Frank Ski, Tamika “Georgia Me” Harper, Rob Glidden, Constantine Varazo, Jackson Walker, Kevin Wayne, Leon Lamar, Allen Earls, Valeria Taylor, Sheryland Neal, Tony Harris, Mark Wilson, Annie Cook, Trey Greene, Nathan Standridge, Robert Summe, Keke Palmer, Joe Walsh
Director: Tyler Perry
Producer: The Tyler Perry Company, Roger M. Bobb, Reuben Cannon, Karen Gorodetzky, Michael Paseornek, Tyler Perry
Distributor: Lionsgate

“Something big is coming to the big house.”

Well, this is MADEA we are talking about here. You know, the cussing, gun-toting, marijuana smoking, hit you with a hot pot of grits grandma whose own brand of wisdom mixes clichés with random pieces of scripture often misquoted or taken out of context. And MADEA was in full force in “Tyler Perry’s Madea Goes to Jail.” She cursed, insulted, assaulted, advised and vandalized on cue, and judging from the bellows of laughter in the packed theater where I saw the movie, delighted most of the audience. But it is the same elements that make MADEA so funny that make me not recommend this film.

But I do recommend keeping an eye out on future Perry projects. Perry shows the most promise when the film focuses on telling the dramatic story of CANDACE a.k.a. “CANDY” the heroine-addicted prostitute played aggressively by Keshia Knight Pulliam (formerly Rudy of The Cosby Show TV series). The story unfolds at a comfortable pace revealing the connection between Candy and lawyer JOSHUA (played by Derek Luke). JOSHUA wants to help CANDY get off the streets, despite the tension it causes between him and his lawyer fiancé, LINDA.

It is actually JOSHUA’s compassion for and desire to help CANDY, despite her present circumstances, that stood out to me as like Jesus Christ. I was reminded of the story in John 8:1-11 about the woman who was caught in adultery. While the Pharisees were ready to condemn and sentence her to death, Jesus said to her (verse 11) “…Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”

Two other actresses whose performances stand out in supporting roles were Viola Davis as ELLEN a tough talking minister who works to get prostitutes off the streets and Vanessa Ferlito as DONNA a fellow prostitute and friend of CANDY’s. Both performances were delivered with such subtlety and depth that you only saw the character rather than an actress playing a character.

I did, however, take issue with ELLEN’s character as a minister distributing clean needles and condoms to the prostitutes on the streets. Since the Bible instructs us to abstain and avoid fulfilling the lusts of the flesh, not to be drunk (which could be applied to drugs) and flee sexual immorality (Galatians 5:17-21; 1 Corinthians 6:18), how can a minister of the gospel provide things that would help keep someone in those lifestyles? In addition, when CANDY tells ELLEN to “Go to hell,” ELLEN’s response was “You first.” I know that people believe Christians must adapt to our current society so that they can “relate” to our message better. But looking to Jesus as our example, He was insulted and did not return the same, but He always left his revilers with more truth and insight about the scriptures.

Perry attempts to leave audiences with a heartfelt message about redemption through CANDY’s story, while weaving the ludicrous antics of MADEA throughout the film. The problem is that this film seemed like two completely separate stories with completely different tones. Often there was no real transition between the dramatic and the comedic scenes. I think this cheated the audience of the proper build up for some of the dramatic scenes. For example, some people were snickering during a serious scene when JOSHUA’s character revealed his true motivation for helping CANDY.

Overall, I do not recommend this movie for the language, violence, sexual innuendo, the Lord’s name taken in vain, and lack of effectively weaving the two storylines.

Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: Heavy

See reviews of other Tyler Perry movies.

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive—“Two thumbs up” for madea. This was a very interesting film, all of the characters played their parts well. There were a few parts that truly touched my heart such as the scene before the phone rang were johnathan was in the bed with his fiance. Being that I have been a victim of sexual abuse this scene showed me that people can enjoy each other without constant sexual activity. Another scene that grasped my attention was when the minister called the prostitue a sucker. At first, I was offended, but then I thought about it even ministers have the ability to give way to the flesh. “Good teaching” thirdly, the teaching on forgivenes in the prison was awesome as well as the actual scene which consisted of forgiveness. this film has the ability to encourage prostitutes that there is a way out.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Natasha, age 31 (USA)
Positive—Tyler Perry did an excellent job with the movie. I do not want to give too much of the movie away. The first part of the movie seemed like two separate movies, but when Madea went to jail everything came together. I would agree I would not bring kids 9 years or younger to see it. But starting at 10 years and up you can. It has one sexual scence that last two seconds. Candy wakes up with a stranger on top of her. But her top and bottom is covered.

But for the most part, the actors remained fully clothed throughout the movie. The movie main focus was forgiveness. It sends a clear message we all need to forgive and not be so judgmental. At first, I questioned how could a minister who preaches the Gospel and reaches out give someone clean needles? But as I thought about it just telling someone on drugs it is wrong will not cause them to stop. People who are on drugs are so addicted that a dirty needle is not enough to make them stop. So a clean needle may keep them healthly and living long enough for someone to point them in the right direction.

Overall, “Madea Goes to Jail” was one of the best movies I seen in a long time. Why? Because the movie had depth to it. The movie points you to the real answer which is Jesus. It tells you to forgive others, read the Word, and live what you read.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Jude, age 24 (USA)
Positive—I brought my two kids and 81 year old mother with me to see “Madea Goes to Jail.” They all enjoyed it. It caused me to view the homeless and women forced into prostitution in a more compassionate way. It challenged me to walk in forgiveness. Also it was funny and brought healing to emotional hurts. This movie was refreshing. I appreciate Tyler Perry’s “Madea goes to Jail.” The movie was well written, and the actors made the movie seem so real. It was well worth the money and time we took to watch it.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Ann, age 50 (USA)
Positive—First let me say, This movie was great. My wife, teenage kids, and friends all know/knew a Madea (not to this extreme, but still) and understand where she is coming from. It got a bit muddled in parts, but overall a good movie. Now, Tyler Perry is trying to make a movie that is girtty and real. On the streets of Atlanta, hookers are drug addicted, and often attacked. Everyone in this world does not follow the principles of Christ, and to make a movie with this subject matter portraying that would be a bold face lie. Should a pastor pass out clean needles and condoms? Maybe not in a church, but this woman had obviously been ministering to these ladies and was doing what she could to keep them safe until they came to Christ. If you paid attention to the jail scences(sp) she said she had lived that life for 16 years before being saved. That is why she was no nonsense and knew crap when she heard it. A real preacher for a real time is what I say she was. Something that we as “Christians” like to do is stay in our safe zones and she was not that type. Bravo to Mr. Perry for that dose of reality.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Conrad, age 41 (USA)
Positive—I’ve seen the movie when it first came out. Matter of fact, I watched it twice the same night. If you are a religious, no a christian, you would see the positive in the movie not the negative, it’s a message in the movie if you look for it. To summarize what I’m saying is this—with the madea part and the derek luke part they were both helping someone that was in trouble in the seen when madea is in jail and they’re in the group meeting no matter how harsh madea was talking it was the TRUTH and true enough the truth hurts no matter how mild or harsh, but when we look at the positive of a message we can understand where we are in our lives, I enjoyed the movie and it made me take a look at who I am as a person and as a christian, we are here living to help others not ourselves, remember CAIN asked GOD “AM I MY BROTHERS KEEPER?”, if you read deeply into that scripture GOD SAID YES, that’s the reason for “love thy neighbor as thy self.”
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Marcel, age 46 (USA)
Positive—I am a huge Tyler Perry fan, and I have to say that I really enjoyed this film. Of course, be aware that it is a Medea film, which means that you will be subjected to hearing about smoking pot and a lot of other things thanks to the character “Joe.” There were some things that were offensive such as the preacher lady giving the prostitutes condoms and clean needles. Also, the language is offensive. There is no nudity in this film, but it is implied that one of the characters is forced to have sex with a man. In that scene, nothing is shown.

Overall, if you like TP’s movies and want a good laugh this time around (so many of his other films are deeper, and therefore don’t have as much humor), I’d recommend this movie to you. If I had kids however, I would not let my 13 year old see this. I’d say it’s fine for high school teens. I had a good laugh and liked the fact that it was about forgiveness. I have to say that in this day and age, it’s nice that there is a Christian who is in the mainstream media making movies that we all can learn from.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Sarah, age 25 (USA)
Positive—I have seen this Tyler Perry movie, the previous two and two of his plays that are on DVD. I agree that because of certain topics addressed in the film, young children should not watch it. But, as with all other movies like this, it is also a good idea for parents to watch it first, then decide whether or not to allow teens to watch, according to their individual maturity, and the ability to be able to talk to them about the situations while watching it, etc.

I love the meanings behind Perry’s movies. I agree that the language, the topics of drugs, prostitution, and violence etc, can be somewhat offensive, but it is what the world is like. That is what Perry is showing us.

I didn’t grow up in the areas that he portrays in his films, but before accepting Christ, I saw a lot of these things in real life. I think his movies would look very unbelievable if they were as clean as “Fireproof” (which is an EXCELLENT movie, by the way). The situations shown are things you could see during inter-city missions, when working in the local homeless shelter, and believe it or not, right next door. Not that it is decent or the right way to act, but a lot of hurting people who do not have Christ in their heart, don’t know how to act any other way. The fact that there isn’t any nudity or sex, is a great plus to this movie, there is too much of that for no reason in Hollywood as it is.

It is also nice to see that most of the characters do have to pay a consequence for the wrong that they do, instead of all the worldly acts being left unpunished in some way. All in all, I would say that this and the other Perry movies are fit for more mature audiences, with several good things to say to a hurting world, in a way that they might be able to understand it.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Lynn, age 41 (USA)


Negative—Let me start by saying I love Madea!! My only concern with the rating is bringing children 13-17 is heavy on the dramatic parts. I helped cover my 14 year old’s eyes and ears during the very dramatic scene of Candy being attacked by her abuser. I much rather wait for Tyler Perry’s work to come out on DVD so I can skip over these dramatic parts. Madea was hilarious and I’m glad she was a BIG (no pun intended!) part of this movie. I can’t say I would recommend this movie to young teenagers. And even for me, an adult, it was more than I wanted to see in terms of drama. I think all the pot smoking would be offensive to a lot of church people.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Judith, age 45 (USA)
Negative—I went to see this film and was very disappointed with the language and some of the vulgar scenes that is in this movie. Tyler Perry needs to do better next time he makes a movie and not bring down the name of Christ and and christian morals the way this movie did. “Fireproof” is a good example of a clean movie. I know that he tried to bring reality into it, but it could have been more family-oriented. I don’t recommend that any parents allow their young children to see this movie. This movie is intended for mature audiences.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Richard, age 33 (Antigua)
Negative—I saw this movie last night, and I was very disappointed. It hurt my spirit. I thought it was suppose to be a Christian movie, but it is definitely not. I was yawning all through the movie; it was boring. I wanted to get up and leave, but I had spent my money son I stayed. I prayed for Tyler Perry for thinking he produce a christian movie. He is confused. The movie continuously used cuss words, and they also played with the lord’s name. I was very offended when Madea stood in front of the judge and playing as if she had change her life using the lord’s name in vain. My God is worthy to be praised, and they should not disrespect like that.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: ½
—Tera, age 31 (Bahamas)
Negative—I was very disappointed in this movie. I base watching a movie on “could Jesus sit and watch this with me, although the Holy Spirit is always with me.” I didn’t see a christian movie at all in this. The cursing, the attitude, making fun of the Holy Spirits language. This movie was no different in my opinion than a secular movie. I would not recommend it for any age.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Linda, age 63 (USA)
Negative—I found this movie to be a sad insight into Tyler Perry’s world view. The movie claims to be about not being a victim—but that is exactly what I think Tyler Perry’s message in this movie is. I think this movie sends the wrong message about all people getting along—no matter what color God made them! The “pimp” is either a white or very light colored Hispanic male and says to the black prositute that he wants her to be his “slave.” The white lady that parks in the spot Madea wants at the Super K Mart refers to Madea as “Jememia.” The white “Christian” businessman (with his wedding ring on and photos of his children behind him) that the black female pastor enlists to help get prostitues off the streets and into jobs is shown to be a criminal that only gives the girls jobs if they sleep with him. In the prision, the blond haired-blue eyed Scandanavian looking inmate is an aggresive-violent homosexual—especially toward the young black prostitute. Madea’s white cellmate—also a Hispanic (assume by her accent, but they never specify) is a serial killer that acts like a crazy goodie two shoes. To top all that off—the two lighter skin toned black characters, especially the prosecuter/fiancee of the main male character are shown as the ones with no morals and willing to do wrong.

Since Tyler Perry wrote this entire movie—it is evident to me that he wants to portray whites/Hispanics/and-or lighter skinned blacks as bad people with racist tendencies, in my opinion. For example—the fiance mentioned above—she calls the prostitute “them people” “from the other side of the tracks.” Tyler Perry is willing to show a lighter skinned accomplished black woman as the main villian by only being able to get ahead by padding her cases and wrongly sending people to jail—either at all—or for longer periods of time than is allowed. The prostitue frequently tells her long time love that this woman is “not his type” and is a “princess” (i.e.—strong implication that she is not truly a black person). I feel this should be insulting to any woman—black or white—or any color—that happens to value her education and wants to get ahead—especially any black woman (or man) that would be considered a “traitor” for pursuing a good education, career, and life—that is considered to be a “white” attribute.

Of course, wrong is done by the female prosecutor—but the way it’s portrayed and the way most of the white people are portrayed in this movie (aside from all the swearing and negative religious content) as sick, violent, or just plain racist—shows me that Tyler Perry wants to continue the division of victimhood, instead of bringing all of God’s people together—as he could have done with this movie—but chose not to! God gave him an opportunity, a voice, and a platform to further this worthy goal and it saddens me he didn’t take it.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: ½
—Paulette, age 44 (USA)
Negative—I have seen this movie “Madea Goes to Jail” probably about 3 times now. I find it offensive because of the cursing and the lack of spirituality in the minsiter. Even when she was ministering in the prison her communication was somewhat angry. She totally lacked the fruit of the spirit. The cursing was a little less offensive because people really do talk that way, but true men and women of God do not speak the way the minister did in this movie. I was told Tyler Perry was a Christian, can’t really tell with this kind of movie making. Not because of the cursing and the issues that were brought out, but because of the lack of Chrisitan characters lacking Chrisitan behavior, I mean if your gonna act a “so called” Christian part, then do it to glorify God, not to be full of compromise. And handing out condoms and needles is not the way, that’s like confessing God but denying the powerthere of. God is able to deliver, He delivered me.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Rosie Lopez, age 39 (USA)
Comments from young people
Positive—Tyler Perry is incredible; his works are true masterpieces. I have seen almost every movie Tyler Perry directed movies. He is amazing; his movies promote God’s Word, and they also have a funny twist. This particular movie dealt with prostitution—how easy it is for young girls to get into this and how hard it is for them to come out of. I wouldn’t recommend this movie for kids under 13, but for older teens 15+ this movie will show them how they have to make right decisions. The movie had a lot of swearing, but it wasn’t meant to be used in a crude way. Some Christians might take offense to this movie, but I personally didn’t. It was a very touching movie
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—anonymous, age 16 (Canada)
Positive—Tyler Perry’s Madea Goes to Jail was honestly the best movie I’ve ever watched! He is an excellent filmmaker, and a Christian. I don’t know why all you… think he’s so “offensive” to blacks/whites/hispanics, because he is a black, and it’s a movie. They are actors, and his point isn’t to offend anybody. His point is that when things are bad, with God you can overcome it. The pot-smoking and beer-drinking is part of the ACT. And for all of those who say, “I can’t believe that he would create a family movie that has so much bad stuff in it.”… Well that’s YOUR own fault. It says it’s PG-13, because of brief drug use and some thematic material. The movie was great, and I hope he makes more! God Bless!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Brenna, age 14 (USA)
Comments from non-viewers
The sad thing about this movie to me as a christian is the cussing. Kirk cameron just did a movie with no cussing (“Fireproof”). Why must the standard for true holiness be taken down. All christians do not cuss. My son ask me why people do it. my answer was because they don’t have any intelligent thing to say so they cuss. The story line is good sort of like the good samaritan, but if you have to cuss to sell tickets then don’t portray yourself one way to draw people in giving them a false since that this is what christians do, but a true not deep, but true christian doesnt need to cuss to sell tickets. The same goes for his TV show H. O. P. I don’t like it because the world see this as christianity. Tyler Perry said he didn’t go to NBC because they would not let him bring Jesus. Where is Jesus on his TV show? I see forms of godliness.
—Steve, age 34 (USA)
My review is one that is written without viewing this movie. I simply cannot put a movie in front of my or my family’s eyes that has a man wearing a dress and looking like a woman. The scripture refers to this as an abomination, and I take that seriously. Tyler Perry is a wonderfully talented man. I’d love to see him do some works that show that ability without cross-dressing.
—Lori, age 46 (USA)
I haven’t seen this movie because it hasn’t been on free TV! I’m writing in defense of the Madea movies (I have seen two) because they show that it’s possible for a Christian to maintain their faith and influence others in spite of all the demonic chaos going on around them. There are scenes where people are trying to share about their faith with ridiculous lewd comments being made at exactly the time to cut off the witness. At first I was offended and then thought about how often this happens in real life. Maybe not to that extreme, but it happens nevertheless. As the movies continued there was a triumph of God over the evil that was trying to work in the lives of the people. It’s not all neat and cleaned up, but very much like real life. Some may live in a Christian bubble where you can keep everything pure as possible, but many of us don’t. These movies show the love of God triumphing in the worst of circumstances. If you want to live in a bubble don’t go see these movies. On the other hand, it could be a good dose of reality. Not for children or young teens. My ratings are based on previous Madea movies.
—Dee, age 63 (USA)