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Dustin Putman

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Meet the Browns  (2008)
1 Stars
Directed by Tyler Perry.
Cast: Angela Bassett, Rick Fox, Margaret Avery, Frankie Faison, Jenifer Lewis, Lance Gross, Sofia Vergara, Lamman Rucker, Tamela Mann, David Mann, Irma P. Hall, Chloe Bailey, Mariana Tolbert, Kristopher Lofton, Phillip Van Lear, Tyler Perry.
2008 – 101 minutes
Rated: Rated PG-13 (for drug content, language including sexual references, thematic elements and brief violence).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, November 14, 2013.
"Meet the Browns" is technically writer-director Tyler Perry's third motion picture featuring his crotchety, uninhibited Madea character (following 2005's "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" and 2006's "Madea's Family Reunion"), but her three-minute cameo appearance right near the end is shoehorned in, feeling like a marketing ploy that doesn't directly relate to the story at hand. The plot proper concerns single mother Brenda (Angela Bassett), whose positive demeanor and self-sufficiency are put to the test when she abruptly loses her factory job and learns that the biological father she never met has passed away. Behind on her bills and no longer able to afford child care, Brenda is convinced by best friend Cheryl (Sofia Vergara) to leave their Chicago stomping ground and head for Georgia to visit her estranged relatives, the Browns, and sit in on the reading of the will. Brenda is at first reluctant, then decides she has nothing to lose. With teenage son Michael (Lance Gross) and younger daughters Tosha (Chloe Bailey) and Lena (Mariana Tolbert) in tow, she is welcomed into the home of the Browns, much to the chagrin of long-lost half-sister and resident daddy's girl Vera (Jenifer Lewis). Obviously, there must be a rotten, deadbeat baby daddy in the form of Michael's father (Phillip Van Lear), as well as a nice guy, in this case NBA recruiter Harry (Rick Fox), who sweeps Brenda off her feet and makes her realize not all men are dogs.

For a movie called "Meet the Browns," the title family have nothing to make them stand out or interest the viewer. They are fairly cursory figures anyway, with the motor-mouthed Mr. Brown (David Mann) treated strictly as lame comic relief. Perry sticks with Brenda, whose financial struggles ring true even if the details (like her home's electricity getting shut off for being literally one day late) strain credibility. One patiently waits for her to learn more about her late dad, but this never comes. The meandering narrative, full of maudlin subplots—there is even a non-fatal shooting of a central character that pops up and leads nowhere in the home stretch—lacks a compelling center. It doesn't help that there is no momentum or rise in action. Things happen to the characters, but it is highly episodic and rarely appears to know where it's heading.

Though Angela Bassett (2006's "Akeelah and the Bee") looks great at 49 (at the time of filming), she is a little long in the tooth to be playing a character who is described throughout as a "young mother." All the same, she is a fine actress, consistently reliable even when she is in less-than-fine movies. It isn't her fault she's stuck in a dull Hallmark movie disguised as Tyler Perry's next theatrical hit. As Harry, former professional basketball player Rick Fox (2003's "Holes") is overshadowed by his distractingly dorky hairstyle—not an ideal feature for someone who is supposed to be the hot, hunky love interest. "Meet the Browns" is played in a far lower key than the overblown, frequently ludicrous "Madea's Family Reunion," but it isn't half as entertaining. Getting to the end is more chore than treat.
© 2013 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman