Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns is a traditional melodrama that is sprinkled with touches of comedy. It’s the usual fare from this filmmaker, complete with an overcrowded plot and an inherent lack of focus. Yet with these clear flaws, I still found myself entertained. Something in me likes the world that Perry creates, as fantastical and stereotypical as it is, and there’s something warm about the way he generates characters and scoots his stories to their inevitable happy endings.
This 2008 picture was based on the play of the same name, also written by Perry. It spawned a television show that is a spin-off of the events of the play and film. The flick somehow sat in the bottom 100 of IMDb for a while, somehow taking up space in the same arena as Meet the Spartans, Gigli and Battlefield Earth. I can assure you that Meet the Browns is nowhere near that bad.
Angela Bassett stars as Brenda, a down-on-her-luck single mother to three kids from three different fathers. One day she receives a letter that informs her that her father has died. Brenda didn’t know her dad and has no real intention of going to the Atlanta funeral services, but when she loses her job and things go from bad to worse she decides that she has nothing to lose.
With her two daughters and basketball-playing son (Lance Gross) in tow, Brenda heads to Georgia to see what kind of family exists. She soon discovers a broad and hysterical cast of larger-than-life characters, including the hilariously dressed Mr. Brown (David Mann) and the Whitney Houston-esque drama queen Vera (Jenifer Lewis). There is, of course, a romantic interest (Rick Fox) and a happy ending.
Meet the Browns doesn’t bathe in pessimistic woe-is-me sentiment for long. Indeed, Brenda’s fiery (and hot!) friend (Sofia Vergara) adds some significant comic relief during some of the more trying scenes. Perry insists that Brenda’s suffering occurs so that she can get through it, kind of like a test from God. The Christian values are here, of course, but Perry always keeps things light and never has characters act outside the realm of reason.
The performances are all quite good. I was especially surprised by David Mann. Aside from his colourful outfits, he has a soft-spoken but funny way of delivering his lines. The somewhat approach he takes to delivering a speech at the funeral is laid aside quickly when all ears are on him.
Perry’s flick hits the usual potholes, though, and that keeps this from being truly good. The side-plot involving Brenda’s son and a drug dealer only serves to add more drama, while a car chase involving Madea (Perry) is present for the mere purpose of setting up Perry’s next film. Still, it may be gratifying for some fans to see Madea in the picture in at least some capacity. For me, it wasn’t needed.
I’ve seen a lot of melodramatic films in my time and Meet the Browns hits good pace and tone. It doesn’t wallow like some flicks, allowing the audience to walk out of the experience with a smile and a chuckle. It plays off the interesting and strange value of family and doesn’t hammer us over the head with blunt moral messages. It’s not overly simple, thankfully, and Perry’s nose for positivity marks a refreshing change.