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“Meet the Browns,” the latest adaptation of a Tyler Perry play, arrives on DVD Tuesday.

"Meet the Browns" (2008) - A woman finds out her estranged father has passed away, and she goes to the funeral to meet the family that she never knew she had.

I live in New Orleans and work at a locally-owned video store, so I have a maximum exposure to Tyler Perry and his target audience. He hails from the Big Easy, and a large following has been growing ever since his plays started debuting at the Saenger Theater in downtown New Orleans. Now that he has been turning his plays (“Diary of a Mad Black Woman,” “Madea’s Family Reunion,” “Why Did I Get Married?” and now “Meet the Browns”) into films (popular at both the theater and video stores), Perry has been gaining national exposure and acclaim all across the country.

And I’ve just been dying to figure out this Perry phenomenon that swept New Orleans a long time ago and is working its way through America right now.

But really, what good is it to dissect one of Perry’s films? Having just sat through “Meet the Browns,” I find it almost impossible to review. As a film, it fails–majorly. The characters are trite. The story has an obvious Christian agenda (like Roger Ebert observed about the movie version of Perry’s “Diary of a Mad Black Woman”) that hinders its natural cause-and-effect development: very little of the action in the movie is believable.

In addition, the portrayal of both Caucasians and Latinos is horridly simplistic and stereotypical. One of the only white characters in the movie turns off the electricity of Brenda, a single mother in the projects who is struggling to raise her three kids. As she cries, he stoically walks way, saying, “I only do what I’m told”–and yet he’s the most sympathetic Caucasian when compared to his fellow carbon-copy, money-grubbing white stereotypes. Even a white character who helps out at the end of the film is probably only doing so for a profit. And, according to Perry’s characterization of Brenda’s close friend Cheryl, Latinas possess only a loud mouth, a tacky wardrobe, and a temper.

However, the themes of the movie “affirm our humanity,” which John Gardner said is one of the most important elements of a work of art. And by the end of the film, I think Perry has his morals in order for the most part: Keep close family ties, don’t let the past invade the future, and do right by your mama.

There are people, though, who will fail to find Perry’s philosophy-movie meaningful, even if they agree with his admirable moral code. Everyone talks in speeches and sage advice, so the abstract notions that the audience members should pick up on their own are being spoonfed to them. The “lessons” in the movie are simple set-ups with easy executions like a rigged carnival game: if someone asks you to deal drugs, don’t do it, because you could get shot.

Oh, really? I sure learned my lesson.

But really… will people like it? Some will, some won’t, and you know who you are. If you think you’ll like a movie like “Meet the Browns,” you probably will. If not, then why bother checking it out? You know what you’re getting into. Anyone who enjoys “Meet the Browns” will enjoy it solely on the basis of taste.

In the end, if someone is inspired by a movie like “Meet the Browns,” then more power to them. In fact, I think Perry would be doing just what he intended. But as a film, as a piece of art, it’s empty.

Rating: * out of ****


One Comment

  1. I thought this movie was off the chain, but the play is waaaaay better. The play version is much funnier and raw. I and my family absolutely love Tyler Perry. It’s hard these days to find entertainment thats clean and brings glory to God, and Mr. Perry most def delivers that.

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