I'm not here to put down Hollywood-outsider Tyler Perry's tendency toward thickly laid-on homilies and family values messages.
Indeed, if you're a parent, you're probably starving for such entertainment.
It's just that I like his movies better with some Devil in them. And the Devil's name is Madea.
Audiences must agree, since the Madea movies tend to rake in double the box office of non-Madea entries like The Family That Preys and Daddy's Little Girls.
And, as cross-dressing fat-suited African-American icons go, I'll certainly take her over Hollywood versions like Big Momma or the Klumps.
You've got to love a politically incorrect reprobate grandma who shuts down Dr. Phil ("Your problem is you wanna get them before they get you") by telling him, "If the 'gotters' get me, I'm gonna get my Glock!" and tells her perky Hispanic serial-killer cellmate (Sophia Vergara), "Touch me again and I'll hit you so hard, all the Spanish is gonna come out your mouth and you'll be speakin' pure English!")
The problem with Madea Goes To Jail, playwright/director Perry's latest leap of the character from stage to screen, is (a) the title is a misnomer, since she doesn't even get to jail until the last act of the movie, and (b) there's too little of her to begin with, set against a parallel plot of a kid-from-the-wrong-side-of-the-tracks turned lawyer (Derek Luke) who remembers where he came from via his relationship with a traumatized, drug-addicted hooker with a heart of gold (Keshia Knight Pulliam, little Rudy from The Cosby Show, for those of you who don't feel old enough already).
It is, in short, not nearly as funny as Madea's Family Reunion, Perry's benchmark for freewheeling, low humour. Still, props to Perry for his performances as both Madea and the ailing partyer Uncle Joe, who thanks God for marijuana, Viagra and oxygen.
As for that other clumsily resolved story, there always seems to be a black woman cast as irredeemable villain in his morality plays, someone who's made some money (or in this case, grew up with it).
Here, it's Linda (Ion Overman), whose upcoming wedding to Josh (Luke) is a major event on the city's social calendar, with the mayor and governor among the invited guests.
Linda gets to use the dreaded phrase "those people," a lot -- especially when Josh runs into Candace, his childhood friend and sometime college mate, now hooked and turning tricks. It turns out a trauma she shares with Josh turned her down that road. Hence his zeal to help her, and Linda's equal unscrupulous zeal to put her behind bars for good.
It's ironic to see a "Cosby kid" in this movie, because even Bill never envisioned a post-Obama 'movie America' where white people are practically nonexistent (a roomful of assistant DA's and their boss has only two non-blacks).
Here, whites are either minor villains or cameo figures -- including Dr. Phil and Joy, Barbara and Elizabeth from The View.
Hey, fair game.
Perry could make 10 more movies and still owe payback for decades of Woody Allen's all-white New York.
(This film is rated 14-A)