Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Movie (2014)
The history of the transfer of British TV sitcoms to the big screen is one littered with tragedy and disaster, so hopes were never particularly high for Ben Kellett’s Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Movie. The TV show has a single-set format that wouldn’t appear to lend itself to a feature film, with its tenuous grip on a manufactured reality frequently ruptured by the breaking of the fourth wall and the inclusion of out-takes. And to be fair to Kellett and Mrs Brown’s creator Brendan O’Carroll, the movie largely abandons that format as it broadens the stage upon which its story plays out, placing Mrs Brown and her brood more firmly in the recognisable environs of its Dublin setting. O’Carroll, who also wrote the script, acknowledges this shift early on in the movie when, in the guise of the title character, he pulls down the deliberately fake background used by the TV show to reveal a genuine street behind.
The movie’s story is a slight one which sees Mrs Brown’s market stall targeted by the Russian mafia, a corrupt politician, and the tax man. The politician (Dermot Crowley) is in league with the mafia, which wants to develop the properties surrounding the market in which Mrs Brown plies her trade, while the tax man is after payment of a 96 euro tax bill incurred by her grandmother back in the 1940s which has now ballooned to nearly 4 million. A series of misunderstandings sees Mrs Brown reluctantly taking a stand against these foes, but a dark secret from her past threatens to derail her campaign.
The poor reception experienced by Mrs Brown’s Boys: D’Movie can in part be explained by the changes forced upon the format by the transfer to the big screen. Fans of the TV show clearly don’t want change; they want the same rapid delivery of joke after joke that the TV show delivers so reliably, but that wouldn’t work in a full-length movie, and the large scale format pretty much demands a different kind of humour, one that largely loses the unique flavour of the show. That doesn’t mean the jokes in the movie aren’t funny — some of them are extremely funny — they’re just different. The movie has also been accused of being racist — which really beggars belief. Mrs Brown’s Boys has always been something of a throwback to the humour of the 1970s, and the situations and characters created for the movie are almost entirely in keeping with the show, with O’Carroll taking advantage of for once not being shackled by the BBC’s over-developed sense of political correctness.
If you’re not a fan of the Mrs Brown TV show you probably won’t enjoy the movie, and if you are a fan with unrealistic expectations of more of the same, you’ll also be disappointed. But if you’re a fan who can approach the movie with no pre-conceived expectations, the chances are you’ll enjoy it well enough. It’s no classic, to be sure, and if O’Carroll should make a second one — revenues suggest he might — there’s no doubt that this first effort will have served as an invaluable experience upon which he’s sure to improve.