As with all of his movie titles, the first two words of Tyler Perry's Meet the Browns are more important than any phrase that follows. The Tyler Perry imprimatur assures an audience already warmed up that they - we - are in for an instructive, uplifting, raucous, avenging, affirmative, occasionally ribald drama grounded in an easy familiarity with African-American culture and theatrical styles. A classic Perry production compacts a multigenerational narrative that might just as easily take up five years of a TV soap or five volumes of a Trollope saga into a tightly packed, loosely directed hundred minutes or so, as rewarding to its fans as it is rudimentary in its production values. Critic-proof, too.
Here, Angela Bassett, as the laid-off single mother of three with the most flawless complexion in all of Chicago, travels to Georgia for the funeral of the father she never knew and meets the good and gossipy, protective and profane family she never knew she had. The importance of faith, church, kin, staying off drugs, sharing food, repenting from sin, forgiving sinners, appreciating a good black man, rejecting a bad one, and honoring black matriarchy is enumerated with typical, reassuring Perry broadness. Broadest of all is the showman's matriarchal alter ego, Madea, who makes an, um, energetic appearance toward the end, just because she can.
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