Tyler Perry's Meet the Browns Review

Mar 21, 2008 | 6:08pm EDT

Brenda (Angela Bassett) is a single mom living in the big city; thus it goes without saying that she is struggling mightily to make ends meet for herself and her three kids--Michael (Lance Gross) Tosha (Chloe Bailey) and Lena (Mariana Tolbert)--each of whom has a different father. Brenda’s problems come to a head when she goes in to work only to learn that her office has been shut down and moved to Mexico. Now it’s not so much her young daughter’s daycare that she can’t afford; it’s electricity and food! With literally nothing else to lose Brenda takes the advice of her friend (Sofia Vergara) and heads down to rural Georgia where  Brenda just found out her estranged father is going to be buried. It is there that she also learns about her long-lost gigantic family and her father’s clandestine life. Most importantly though she meets a very persistent charmer (Rick Fox) who may or may not change her life in more than one way. Academy Award nominee Angela Bassett takes a huge step down in giving in to the hit machine that is Tyler Perry. Her bad decision to take on the role of an emotionally and financially battered single mom turns into an equally subpar performance. She is overly made-up both character-wise and physically--Brenda appears better-suited for one of Perry’s stage productions--and Bassett greatly overacts albeit somewhat appropriately for such a melodramatic film. Former Los Angeles Laker/Mr. Vanessa Williams Rick Fox playing a somewhat fictional version of his own life (i.e. retired basketball star) continues to attempt in vain to prove himself as an actor and not just a jock. Unfortunately he again comes off as an athlete trying his hand at acting with an emotional range and vocal monotone that make Shaquille O'Neal seem worthy of another acting gig. The lone bright spot is House of Payne (Perry’s TBS sitcom) star Gross who as a high school basketball star/super-son is thankfully unwilling to indulge in the overacting that surrounds him. In supporting roles the countless Brown family members are good for a few laughs but little else. And Perry himself pops up as the beloved Madea character for what can only be considered a cameo. As sure as a new spoof from the Scary Movie guys an under-the-radar Woody Allen film and a Saw flick  Tyler Perry will put out at least one film a year these days. Between his own movie productions acting gigs on the side and hit TBS sitcom House of Payne Perry is clearly the busiest man in showbiz--gotta give him that. What’s not so clear however is how he has such a loyal fervent fan base. Meet the Browns like every other movie he’s written and/or directed (five of them) is very occasionally silly-funny or touching but otherwise verges on absurd and not the good  There Will Be Blood kind of absurd. It’s everything that probably makes Perry’s plays--which are the basis for almost all of his work and his subsequent meteoric Hollywood rise--successful: histrionics theatrics melodrama and preaching. None of those elements translates to anything more than an uneven film yet apparently throngs of moviegoers couldn’t disagree more--and hey at least it’s a (welcome) change from almost everything else at the local multiplex.

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