Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Movie Review
Reviewed by David Selby.
It would be dishonest of me to say that I went into Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Movie without doubts. The trailers, promotional material and mainstream critical response all seemed to suggest that it was a film that proved an increasingly-irrefutable fact: that some things are better off in the studio.
As it was, I was surprised – not just at the diversity of themes and tones, but of the film’s effortless ability to remain compact, whilst making the big-screen transition worthwhile with new perspectives on locations such as Foley’s bar.
A key part of Mrs Brown’s Boys is that it’s not what it looks like. Ironically, the series is ceaselessly disparaged for crude humour, bad language and general indecency, despite the fact that beneath the first layer it always promotes some of the loveliest, most thought-provoking morals to live your life by. Take the third series: Mrs Brown’s gay son, Rory, becomes engaged to his boyfriend, Dino. But rather than homophobic gags (which one might expect from a show about a Catholic Irish matriarch), it focused on the fact that they were two people who loved each other, not two attention-seeking stereotypes wanting to make a statement.
Such subtle lessons are often overlooked by critics who will go on to blindly slate the series whatever it comes up with. D’Movie, more or less, has gone the same way. There are some ridiculous scenes and blatant stock characters. But are we meant to be invested in clichéd antagonists ‘the Russians’? No. We’re meant to see how a character like Mrs Brown would defeat the ‘typical’ villains who would overcome most.
Brendan O’Carroll described D’Movie as ‘a love letter to Dublin’, and this aim was obviously at the heart of production. Dublin is a surprisingly impressive city as illustrated in the movie, and O’Carroll continuously injects a believable, authentic and compelling sense of culture into his depiction of it, and rather than the humour, this ‘family’ side of the city becomes the core of what the film is trying to achieve (because Mrs Brown’s Boys is always about family, so it seems fitting that a large-scale version would widen the breadth of family).
O’Carroll made another interesting point that you can’t have ‘proper’ comedy without a bit of pathos. As always, Mrs Brown’s Boys is completely successful in communicating contrasting themes. On one hand, there are Buster’s crazy but hilarious ventures with blind ninjas. On the other, there’s the poignant tale of what Mrs Brown went through after losing her habitually-referenced husband, Redser. I’d argue that neither would work without the other. Mrs Brown’s Boys was never meant to be (and would never function as) a drama, but the credible ‘heart’ of the narrative, the humour wouldn’t be as appreciated as it is in moments of despair.
Mrs Brown is presented as a lovable, charitable and respected woman who has made mistakes but learnt from them. She gets a lot of touching scenes with other characters, especially her daughter, Cathy (the actor’s wife!). The genuine hilarity comes not from a witty script, but from some of the ingeniously-inserted bloopers and outtakes which exhibit O’Carroll’s admirable wit. Mrs Brown’s Boys would never, ever work if the cast and crew stopped having fun.
The humour doesn’t feel contrived, either, partly thanks to the lack of studio laughter. Instead, the audience were allowed to decide what moments were funnier, and the laughter from the group of drunken middle-aged women next to me was in itself entertainment.
Sorcha Cusack, the original Hilary Nicholson, is back playing a likable (presumably one-off) magistrate, though the absence of Susie Blake’s Hilary does feel like a shortcoming. A minor criticism would also be that whilst the soundtrack is mostly excellent (especially with Ryan Sheridan’s Home), there are moments where the violins are less than subtle and could be toned down a bit to avoid melodrama.
One thing I wouldn’t say is “If you don’t like the TV series, watch it anyway”. Mrs Brown’s Boys will always be the marmite of modern entertainment, and if you’ve hated the series so far, D’Movie will do absolutely nothing to change your mind. But if you’re as much of a fan as Mrs Brown’s Boys as I am, then her big-screen debut will be one of the most rewarding filmic events of 2014.