Trying to cash in on its large enough demographic, the Irish sitcom Mrs. Brown’s Boys finally moved out of its cozy sofa and hide off to the big screen last June 27 and was successful enough to grab first spot in UK and Ireland box offices on its opening weekend. It follows the less stellar performances of other sitcoms-developed-into-movies like Keith Lemon: The Film and The Harry Hill Movie. As developed by creator, movie producer, writer and principal actor (who plays Mrs. Brown) Brendan O’Carroll, Mrs. Brown’s barfly moxie has always radically differed from the Robin Williams character Mrs. Doubtfire. Mrs. Brown’s been around for almost as long and has kept on running, enlivening Dublin’s Moore Street produce market with her happily liberated mouth.
Feisty, nutty and larger than life, Mrs. Brown, who manages a fruit and produce stall, runs a-foul of a Russian businessman who wants to buy it and convert it into a shopping centre. Brendan O’Carroll’s love-hate relationship with critics comes slyly to the fore as the humourous situations come in thick and fast. One critic disliked the movie for inappropriate breaks of the fourth wall (the wall between audience and the play). Carroll had set it up that way, and the subterranean running gag on all his (and the sitcom and the movie’s) critics continues throughout the entire movie.
The storyline is buoyed up (or is it down) with ridiculous takes on all that is silly in film comedy – blind ninjas; Mrs. Brown’s own Irish slacker boys; an evil, silly MP who is corruption incarnate (he is the one masterminding the buy up of all the market stalls on Moore Street for the Russian businessman); and deliberately cheesy operatic scenes. Her stall is in danger of being taken because of the back taxes ostensibly owed by her dead grandmother. Things go from bad to kaput, with Russian thugs trying to crowd her out – one even manages to hear her confession and that is used in the court case put up by the MP against her. Fortunately, the Irish love an anti-heroine, and her being portrayed as Ireland’s most endearing mother becomes a highly appreciated bit of mondo cane. Her plight is an instant cause célèbre and she is able to get back at everyone who has caused her pain.
Now back to that stuffy fourth wall. Breaking it is akin to a fictionist editorializing inside his fictional narrative. Denis Diderot considered this wall an unbreakable one, as the play should always maintain its self-contained fictional world for the audience to appreciate. Brendan O’Carroll believes otherwise. With the opening weekend receipts amounting to £4.3 million and a storyline which ridicules all his critics, it’s a win-win situation for him.
One could imagine the critics’ eyes slowly popping out in a civilised manner as the film progressed. Some called it crude. Others called it un-funny, but Brendan O’Carroll has the punchline. He has predicted the way critical reviews would go, and he deliberately pre-skewered critics when he didn’t give them a pre-screening. The box office take from Mrs. Brown’s Boys D’Movie spells all the difference even as Mrs. Brown herself gives it a critical rating of “two chips, one small cod”. We get the point, Mr. O’Carroll. And congrats for all the moolah your movie and DVD has raked in!