Tyler Perry's Meet the Browns
Tyler Perry is both a Hollywood anomaly and an enviable success story. Since exploding onto the movie scene just six years ago with Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Perry has produced film after film (including Madea's Family Reunion, Daddy's Little Girls and Why Did I Get Married?), often several in a single year, based on his original stage productions. Almost without exception, each of his films share the same attributes—they are shot on minuscule budgets, receive scathing to tepid critical reviews and end up raking in boatloads of money.
Oh, and Perry usually shows up dressed as a woman.
Perry's latest film is no exception. Tyler Perry's Meet the Browns is not a remarkably well-written, directed or acted film. But Perry seems to have tapped into something very few other African-American filmmakers have, and it apparently continues to guarantee his success: Perry makes clean morality plays for African-American audiences about issues that are not being addressed by mainstream Hollywood cinema.
Saturated with biblical morality and the importance of family and faith, Perry tackles the issues facing lower and middle-class African-American families. Perry, recently named one of the most powerful people in Hollywood by Entertainment Weekly, knows what it's like to grow up on the margins of society. He's never been shy about proclaiming Jesus Christ and his church body as the only lifeline worth holding on to when times get tough.
In Meet the Browns, Brenda (Angela Bassett) is a single mother living in inner city Chicago where life is a daily struggle to keep her three kids fed. Usually indomitable, Brenda begins losing hope after she unexpectedly loses her job, her power is shut off, her babysitter quits and her high-school basketball star son, Michael (Lance Gross) considers selling drugs to help make ends meet.
Then a letter arrives from Georgia announcing the death of a father she never knew and an invitation to attend the funeral. Reluctant at first, but increasingly desperate for any kind of help, Brenda trundles her family onto a bus and heads to the Deep South. But if Brenda thought that living in the big city would prepare her for any sort of eccentricity, she obviously never met the Brown clan and their mischievous, crass Southern manners.
Hysterical Leroy Brown (David Mann) is a flashy fashion plate—if this were 1972. Outspoken Vera (Jenifer Lewis) has never met an acidic opinion she didn't like. And Madea, the indomitable, law-breaking, spirited grandmother is, well, Madea. (I confess I have never understood why watching Tyler Perry in drag is such a draw in each of his films; thankfully his/her role in this film is mercifully short.)
But Brenda's foreign, over-the-top family aren't the only Georgians she finds herself rubbing elbows with in the small, sleepy Southern town. Harry (Rick Fox), a college basketball scout who, serendipitously enough, had shown an interest in Michael back in Chicago, also happens to live just down the road from Brenda's relatives and finds that his interest in Brenda just might be even more powerful than his interest in her son's blistering talent. For her part, Brenda, who has three children from three different men, is averse to getting into another relationship. After a lifetime of hooking up with only the wrong kinds of men, trust is an exceptionally rare commodity.