Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Madea Challenge! Part Three: Meet The Browns

Don't fucking tell me what to do movie title. I'll meet the Browns if and when I damn well please. Wait, what's going on? Sorry, I think I'm starting to get a little delirious already, and I'm only on the third Madea movie. Fuck am I getting sick of writing the name Madea. It's not even a real name. Its a stupid fake name for a stupid movie thing...something. God, I don't even know anymore. I think I need to take a break for a few hours, maybe watch The Master again. That was pretty okay, right? Anyway, Parts One and Two are here, and feel free to push the Read More button thingy to read what I certainly hope will be at least somewhat cogent ramblings regarding Madea movie #3 - Meet The Browns!

Madea Level Three: Meet The Browns

Okay, its possible I've just gone completely insane, but I kinda think these movies are getting incrementally better as they go along, even as the cumulative experience of watching them all is increasingly offensive to my senses. I'm trying to figure out if Stockholm syndrome is a more likely explanation, but I can honestly say that these movies are getting easier to slog through, despite the slowly building reservoir of bitterness accumulating in the back of my brain. Then again, its possible I just have a better opinion of this latest film due to the lead actress being the usually very good Angela Basset, and due to the fact that so far, this film has the least actual Madea in it. I say the usually good Basset because I'm finding more and more that Perry has a unique way of getting the worst performances out of some otherwise very good actors, and no more is this disparity more present, at least so far, than in Meet The Browns

Whatever other flaws you want to attribute to Perry as a writer or a director, I think his biggest one is shaping up to be his inability to cross over from a stage producer to a film producer. As I mentioned, each film in this series so far has been a little better, as he seems to be learning the distinction between films and plays, but at least at this point, he still directs his actors like they have to emote to the seats in the back of the theater. Subtlety is a virtue that sometimes must be sacrificed on the stage but that can and should be exploited in film, and the sooner Perry realizes this, the better. I actually think that a lot of the outlandish wackiness in his comic relief characters that some have criticized as insulting and even in some cases racist has more to do with Perry's failure to understand this principle than an inability to actually craft more well-rounded, realistic characters. His sort of Afterschool Special parable style requires a set of broad strokes, but it might be more palatable if and when he figures out how to tone down the melodrama a little bit.  

Maybe its too soon to be talking about patterns, I mean its only the third one and in fact I was pleasantly surprised by how different the plot structure was here than the previous two cloned features. Still, I'm noticing a lot of similar motifs jump out even beyond the common themes we all associate with this writer/director. For instance, this is the third movie in a row that starts with a montage of panning shots around the city in which it is set. I know it doesn't sound like much, but there are other ways to start a movie, and I seriously wonder if Perry actually knows this. Also, I notice that once in every movie, Perry will add one specific line that comes across as the motto of the film, referencing some noble description of Black Women. This is how black women act, or this is what a black woman can always take pride in, which is all fine of course, except he seems to tack these sentiments on somewhat haphazardly, to statements that could and probably should really apply to all women. The black modifier just seems like pandering, through I certainly wouldn't ever presume to accuse someone as subtle and sophisticated as Perry of that.

Really though, just not having a story where the main character is under the thumb of an abusive husband for the whole thing due entirely to her own weakness as a human being is enough to pull this movie ahead of the others. There is an abusive husband of course, but thankfully he's a minor character this time, and our female protagonist is actually a woman with a spine and common sense for once, though sometimes this is taken too far to the opposite extreme, painting her as needlessly hostile and obstinate. Still, the stakes don't seem nearly as contrived as they did in the previous film, as we're given a main character with the simple goal of caring for her family on her own while life seems to be conspiring for her to fail.

In a way, I wonder if this story is Perry's take on the biblical story of Job. Much of the narrative seems to be primarily about piling shit on top of shit on top of Basset's already beleaguered single mother while various other characters constantly remind her that her shitty life is part of God's plan and if she just has faith, everything will turn out fine. That being said, the other movies were kinda like that too, just to a lesser extent, so its hard to tell. In any event, because its a Tyler Perry movie, everybody's right and things do pan out for the best. Personally I would have slapped anyone who tried to tell my God got me fired and left me in such a destitute situation that my son thought he had to sell dope, and then immediately got shot (because that's how drug dealing always works), but that's just me. Also we get a pre-Modern Family Sofia Vergara bouncing around in tight belly shirts, so there's that.

The titular Browns are the same kind of cartoonish caricatures right out of the Madea mold, just younger and more annoying. The overly excitable Leroy isn't nearly as funny as he or the end credits blooper reel seem to think he is, and the stereotypical drama queen sister is so thinly written, she literally tries to dive into a coffin at a funeral in possibly the most cliched of funeral scene cliches. The only outright funny one is LB, the oldest sibling and defacto patriarch, whose blunt revelation of the family's secret Pimp-infused history provides perhaps the only genuinely laugh out loud scene in three movies thus far. Its weird to say it, but I wonder if they would have been more entertaining had Perry gone the full Klumps route and played all the parts. No, probably not.

And finally, as for Madea, her part is relegated to a quick cameo that evidently sets up the next film. Its not actually that bad, and I definitely think less is more when it comes to the character's role in this series, which really has me worried for the next movie, which by all appearances is wall to wall Madea. Her inclusion into this film is completely random and adds nothing to the story, but since she isn't in the movie long enough to wear out her welcome, it proves a nice silly distraction from events that by that point are winding down in preparation for the obligatory sappy happy ending.

Overall, not an experience that I could realistically use to justify any violence committed against myself or others, so we're definitely talking about a vast improvement over the last couple films. Stay tuned next time to see if that changes.
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