Film review: MRS BROWN’S BOYS D’MOVIE, from Built For Speed

Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Movie is the big-screen adaptation of the surprisingly successful TV sit-com Mrs Brown’s Boys a gleeful yet rarely funny throwback to the broad British working class sit-coms of the 1970’s. I grew up with shows like On the Buses, Benny Hill, Dick Emery, Love Thy Neighbour and Mind Your Language so I have some nostalgic affection for these comedies.  Still, while On the Buses remains watchable and quite endearing, the others, which often trade on racist, sexist and homophobic humour, are pretty dire.

Mrs Brown’s Boys, which is actually Irish, embraces political incorrectness in the form of crass foul-mouthed fruit-stall owner and mother of six, Agnes Brown.  As most people will know she’s actually played by a man, the show’s creator Brendan O’Carroll.  A big gimmick in the show is that Agnes often breaks the fourth wall talking to the audience and even making jokes about the fact that she is really a man.  Such post-modern aspirations do not, however, prevent the TV show and D’Movie from being atrociously hackneyed. 

The film indulges a creaking plot where, once again, a lovable dope is battling a corporate meanie.  This time the dope is Agnes who is being pressured by an unscrupulous politician and developers from (where else) the Russian mafia to sell her fruit stall in Dublin’s Muir Street Market.  A less-than-riveting sub-plot also sees Agnes struggling to pay an enormous tax bill.

Like the TV show, the film breaks with convention by having Agnes talk to directly to the camera and by incorporating what would normally be regarded as bloopers such as the actors bursting out laughing mid-scene.  These snippets of self-awareness do little to detract from the fact that most of the gags are unfunny, clichéd, predictable and that many of them draw on racial and sexual stereotypes.  At one point O’Carroll does an impersonation of an Asian man that rivals Mickey Rooney’s infamous Mr Yunioshi from Breakfast at Tiffany’s for offensiveness.  The film briefly makes a joke out of the fact that it’s clearly a white man playing the role but then leaps right back into the racial parody. 

Despite the film’s many flaws, its central character Agnes, is still vaguely likeable and her ballisness (so to speak) and down-to-earth humanity will have most people on her side.  In fact, at one point the film becomes quite serious as Agnes laments her actions from many years ago.  This straight dramatic component actually works even though it’s completely at odds with the rest of the film.

Like many cinematic adaptations of TV shows Mrs Browns Boys D’Movie falls victim to the ridiculous notion that the film needs to be bigger and more extravagant than the original TV show.  This generally results in an empty spectacle that dilutes or even kills the elements that made the TV show appealing.  Here the film inexplicably includes an opening musical number which has no relevance to the story, isn’t funny and isn’t particularly entertaining as a song and dance number.

Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Movie is retrograde and even shoddy-looking but is by no means as staggeringly awful as a film like Movie 43.  It’s really just a stock-standard David and Goliath story with a bit of lame seaside humour thrown in.  Overblown musical numbers aside it’s basically what we would expect having seen the TV show.

Nick’s rating: **

Genre: Comedy.

Classification: M.

Director(s): Ben Kellett.

Release date: 24th July 2014

Running time: 94 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast. 

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