Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns (2008)

Rated PG-13. Our ratings: V- 2; L-1; S/N -4. Running time: 1 hour 40 min.

The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
And those who know your name
put their trust in you,
for you, O Lord, have not forsaken
those who seek you.
Psalm 9:9-10

Mealtime at the Browns is never quiet.

2008 Lionsgate Films

When you go to a Tyler Perry film you expect a church/faith-based perspective mixed in with some raunchy humor and strong family values, and often Perry himself, playing in drag the irascible Madea.

In his current film Brenda (Angela Bassett) is a Chicago single mom trying to protect her three kids from the mean streets, She has lost her job, her power is turned off, and oldest son Michael (Lance Gross), a high school basketball star, is tempted by a friend to earn money through drug dealing so that he can help her pay the bills. When she receives a letter from Georgia inviting her to the funeral of a father she had never known, she lays it aside. However, her friend Cheryl (Sofia Vergara), seeing how desperate her friend’s situation is, urges her to take the trip.

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The Brown family turns out to be the most bizarre group Brenda has ever met. Leroy (David Mann)’s clothing style is as loud as can be; Vera (Jenifer Lewis)’s tongue is covered with acid, she being the only Brown who does not welcome Brenda and children; and then there are Sarah (Margaret Avery); L.B (Frankie Faison); and the elderly Joe (Tyler Perry). Surprisingly Brenda meets pro basket ball scout Harry (Rick Fox), who in Chicago had tried to recruit Michael but was rebuffed by the suspicious mother because she wants her son to attend college. By one of those coincidents found in every Perry movie, Harry lives down the street.

Will Harry or won’t he win Brenda’s heart? Will Brenda find among her new family the love and security long denied her? Silly questions, given that this is a Tyler Perry film: as always, he suggests that there is hope in the most daunting of situations, hope, and love, which can be best found in the family and the church. His humor is often strained and over the top, but his message is clear and strong. He has been shunned by critics and most whites, but his five films have done well with mostly black audiences because no one else is making films that depict the good and the bad, the serious and the funny sides of being black in America.. If only he would discover that a subtle touch could draw an even larger audience.

For reflection/Discussion 1) How is Brenda’s plight and the depiction of her ex-husband an endorsement of Bill Cosby and Barrack Obama’s emphasis upon black men taking more responsibility as husbands and fathers?

2) Which of the Brown’s were you attracted to—and why? Repelled by? How is Perry’s admittedly caricature of a family still true to life, that families are mixtures of good and bad? What about your family?

3) What does Brenda lack the most when Harry comes into her life? How can trust, once lost, be restored? How does Harry do this?

4) How is the dilapidated house a symbol of life and of people? Who sees the potential in it? How is this what love does in regard to people, see the potential in another? (Note how Jesus looked at people, often unsavory characters, in this way.)