When make a film from a play, things are bound to change, and the thing that has worked about Tyler Perry’s films and that has captivated audiences into making them into financial hits is that each of them shows strong family values. With his last film, ‘Why Did I Get Married?’, Perry centered his attention on middle-class Black couples who, like anyone else, faced marital problems. It struck such a cord with a lot of folks, even some proclaiming that it was his best film thus far. While it may be funny to see Perry dish out some sassy advice while playing Madea, the messages in his films are always quite clear: love and family will get you through the day.
His latest film, ‘Tyler Perry’s Meet The Browns’ presents the same family values, but the humor is not up to par as the previous films and feels like step backwards for the director. Aside from David Mann, Jenifer Lewis and Sofia Vergara, most of the jokes are flat in what is supposed to be a dramedy with serious overtones.
Totally different from the stage production, Perry has elected to change the scenario and shift the family in the background. Angela Bassettt plays Brenda, a struggling single mother of three, each who has a different father, and which neither plays a part in their lives. With bills running high and with little money to spare, the family starts to lose electricity at home, food on the plate, with the apartment next to go. When she loses her job, Brenda gets a letter stating that her father has passed away and that bus tickets are arranged for her and the family to come down from Chicago to Georgia for the reading of the will. With nothing left to lose, it’s down to Atlanta they go. Once there, they are greeted by Mr. Leroy Brown and his daughter Cora and then meets the rest of Brown family, who are surprised to hear about this family member they never knew existed. With some family love and a possible romance on the horizon, Brenda’s future is about to change for her and her family.
For as much as Angela Bassett deserves to be back in a leading role, this role is ten years too late for her. From ‘Waiting to Exhale’ to ‘How to Stella Her Groove Back’ to ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It’, Bassett has been in this position before and really didn’t need to go back to playing another downtrodden woman. Bassett is too strong of an actress for one to imagine that the character she’s playing can’t keep a job or pay bills, especially when she has a teenage son who’s old enough to get a afterschool job and help out.
The highlight of the film is the emergence of David Mann as Mr. Leroy Brown. Mr. Mann as well as his wife, Tamela, who plays Cora, have been a staple of Perry’s theater productions for years, having appeared in five of them, (I Can Do Bad All By Myself, Madea's Family Reunion, Madea's Class Reunion, Meet the Browns, and What's Done in the Dark), and it’s a joy to see them on the big screen and see them make you laugh out loud with Mr. Mann’s zany outfits and that squeaky voice. While the scene at the funeral may have been hilarious, Perry did go a bit overboard with the church scene in which Mr. Brown gives a long drawn out sermon that loses it comic relief midway. Latina actress Sofia Vergara also adds some wit to the film, while Jenifer Lewis is a just a riot who needs her own show or film.
As the love interest in the film, Rick Fox provides the romantic element, but we could have done without the melodrama involving his personal baggage. It’s just one too many stories not worth telling, but this is usually the case for most of his films. It’s worth noting that Madea makes a brief appearance in the film, setting the stage for what is the next film from the franchise, ‘Tyler Perry’s Madea Goes To Jail’.
Overall, ‘Tyler Perry’s Meet The Browns’ is not as multi-layered and spiritual uplifting as a the previous films, but it will still appeal to his usual fan base.