Movie review: 'Let's Go to Prison'

David Hiltbrand
The Philadelphia Inquirer

There probably is a funny comedy to be made from the premise of an effete rich guy being sent to a penitentiary. But the juvenile "Let's Go to Prison" never comes close to locating it.

John (Dax Shepard) is a guy who's spent most of his life as a ward of our criminal justice system. After being sent away three times by the same superior judge, he becomes consumed with exacting revenge. But fate forces him to focus his frustration on the judge's son, the spoiled, self-absorbed Nelson Biederman IV (Will Arnett).

John frames Nelson for a felony assault rap, then gets himself busted so he can enjoy his foil's torment first-hand. He even talks Nelson into taking him as a cellmate by promising that he doesn't snore and is quiet pleasuring himself.

Then, in the guise of showing his naive and terrified bunkmate the ropes in jail, John instead drives him into all the turnbuckles. Before his first day is over, Nelson has grievously insulted a vicious white supremacist.

Arnett, of TV's "Arrested Development," is perfectly suited to the role of a lamb living in a tiger cage. He cheerily says to the nasty con slopping out gruel, "What's on the menu today, good sir?" But this movie, a sort of frat boy version of "Cool Hand Luke," doesn't give him much material to work with.

"Let's Go to Prison's" principal joke is that a burly black prisoner (Chi McBride of TV's "The Nine") wants to be the new guy's bunk buddy. But instead of forcibly raping Nelson, he burbles sweet nothings to him a la Barry White. Abducting poor Nelson to his cell, he slips on a Chuck Mangione song and asks, "Would you like some Merlot? I made it in the toilet."

But that's as funny as it gets. You'd do better to watch the scene in "Starsky & Hutch" where the guys interview Will Farrell in jail. You'd get all the homoerotic humor of "Let's Go to Prison" in a fraction of the time.

This really isn't a comedy. It's more of a wooly spoof, stretched out to criminal lengths.


1 ½ stars

Written by Ben Garant, Thomas Lennon and Michael Patrick Jann, directed by Bob Odenkirk. With Dax Shepard, Will Arnett and Chi McBride.

Running time: 1 hour, 24 mins.

Parent's Guide: R (profanity, sexual content, some violence, drug use)





Cordelia Strube's 'Misconduct of the Heart' Palpitates with Dysfunction

Cordelia Strube's 11th novel, Misconduct of the Heart, depicts trauma survivors in a form that's compelling but difficult to digest.


Reaching For the Vibe: Sonic Boom Fears for the Planet on 'All Things Being Equal'

Sonic Boom is Peter Kember, a veteran of 1980s indie space rockers Spacemen 3, as well as Spectrum, E.A.R., and a whole bunch of other fascinating stuff. On his first solo album in 30 years, he urges us all to take our foot off the gas pedal.


Old British Films, Boring? Pshaw!

The passage of time tends to make old films more interesting, such as these seven films of the late '40s and '50s from British directors John Boulting, Carol Reed, David Lean, Anthony Kimmins, Charles Frend, Guy Hamilton, and Leslie Norman.


Inventions' 'Continuous Portrait' Blurs the Grandiose and the Intimate

Explosions in the Sky and Eluvium side project, Inventions are best when they are navigating the distinction between modes in real-time on Continuous Portrait.


Willie Jones Blends Country-Trap With Classic Banjo-Picking on "Trainwreck" (premiere)

Country artist Willie Jones' "Trainwreck" is an accessible summertime breakup tune that coolly meshes elements of the genre's past, present, and future.


2011's 'A Different Compilation' and 2014 Album 'The Way' Are a Fitting Full Stop to Buzzcocks Past

In the conclusion of our survey of the post-reformation career of Buzzcocks, PopMatters looks at the final two discs of Cherry Red Records' comprehensive retrospective box-set.


Elysia Crampton Creates an Unsettlingly Immersive Experience with ​'Ocorara 2010'

On Ocorara 2010, producer Elysia Crampton blends deeply meditative drones with "misreadings" of Latinx poets such as Jaime Saenz and Juan Roman Jimenez


Indie Folk's Mt. Joy Believe That Love Will 'Rearrange Us'

Through vibrant imagery and inventive musicality, Rearrange Us showcases Americana band Mt. Joy's growth as individuals and musicians.


"Without Us? There's No Music": An Interview With Raul Midón

Raul Midón discusses the fate of the art in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. "This is going to shake things up in ways that could be very positive. Especially for artists," he says.


The Fall Go Transatlantic with 'Reformation! Post-TLC'

The Fall's Reformation! Post-TLC, originally released in 2007, teams Mark E. Smith with an almost all-American band, who he subsequently fired after a few months, leaving just one record and a few questions behind.


Masaki Kobayashi's 'Kwaidan' Horror Films Are Horrifically Beautiful

The four haunting tales of Masaki Kobayashi's Kwaidan are human and relatable, as well as impressive at a formal and a technical level.


The Top 10 Thought-Provoking Science Fiction Films

Serious science fiction often takes a backseat to the more pulpy, crowdpleasing genre entries. Here are 10 titles far better than any "dogfight in space" adventure.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.