Meet the Browns Movie Review
Hard working Brenda (Angela Bassett) is at the end of her rope. She's lost her job, she can't afford to feed her kids, and her basketball-playing son is responding to the lure of the streets. Then she learns that the father she never met has just died. His funeral is in Georgia, and the relatives have sent bus tickets so she can attend. After saying goodbye to her Latina friend Cheryl (Sofia Vergara), she heads down South.
When she arrives, Brenda is met by the flashy dressing dim bulb Leroy Brown (David Mann) and his good-hearted daughter Cora (Tamela Mann). The rest of the clan consists of LB (Frankie Faison), his wife Sarah (Margaret Avery), and the highly strung Vera (Jenifer Lewis). They are surprised to see this stranger in their midst, and even more shocked to learn of her lineage. But Brenda has new concerns, especially when a former professional ball player with a shady past (Rick Fox) takes an interest in her... and her son's future career.
Get ready to be disappointed, fans of the original Tyler Perry stage play. Meet the Browns resembles that enjoyable ensemble comedy in name only. Instead, our hardworking writer/director lifts the main storyline from his recent What's Done in the Dark... (single mother raising NBA-bound son) and intersperses it with only occasional callbacks to the malapropism-prone Leroy Brown and his entire frenzied family freak show. Gone are a few cast members, the last act funeral free-for-all, and of course, most of the God stuff. In their place are insufferable moments of mild melodrama that sloppily illustrate how single mothers suffer at the hands of deadbeat dads, envious kinfolk, and the lure of easy drug money.
On the plus side, Perry hired Angela Bassett as his social surrogate. She delivers a performance of quiet intensity, earning our respect -- and a few tears -- with her earnest desire to succeed. She is matched well by David Mann, bringing his classic human cartoon Leroy Brown to the big screen. Sure, some of his verbal mistakes are incredibly forced ("last will and testicles"), but his personality is so genuine and likeable that we forgive the larger than life qualities. Even Rick Fox redeems the standard knight in shining armor role that Perry requires of all his leading men.
Yet something is still not right with this movie, and it has more to do with what's going on behind the scenes than what's in front of the camera. Perry's desire to distance himself from the source material makes this adaptation a bit of a bait and switch. Even his appearance as the popular Madea ends up a mere cameo. And since the Brown family material is so kinetic, so winning in the way it uses character to enhance the comedy, the downer dramatics appear wildly out of place. In fact, Meet the Browns definitely feels like three different screenplays purposefully tossed together. With only one of those succeeding, perhaps Perry's time in the limelight may be shorter than he -- or his fans -- think.
Time for cake.