There's a familiar thread that runs through most of Tyler Perry's movies.
It’s not his reliance on stereotypes, his focus on familial strife or the recurring indomitable Southern matriarch Madea, but his repetitive portrayal of the strong black woman who always overcomes all odds despite discord.
“I was raised by a single mother and she took me everywhere with her and by the time I grew up I knew everything about Lane Bryant,” jokes the writer, actor and director who went from the poverty-stricken streets of News Orleans to a multimillion-dollar mansion outside Atlanta with the success of his movies.
Perry’s first feature flick in 2005 titled “Diary of a Mad Black Woman” told the story of a cheating spouse from the wife’s perspective. “Madea’s Family Reunion”, his follow up continued that pattern with two half-sisters battling issues of abuse and betrayal with the men in their lives. “Meet the Browns”, his latest release tells a similar story with Brenda (Bassett), a struggling single mother in inner city Chicago whose life changes when she returns home to Georgia for the funeral of a father she never knew. There she meets her father’s fun loving Southern clan the Browns, an eclectic and eccentric bunch that includes the outrageously dressed Leroy Brown whose clothes speak even louder than he does. It’s also there, in Georgia, Brenda finds romance with Harry (Fox) a former basketball professional who also develops a paternal relationship with her eldest son Michael (Goss). Based on the stage production of the same name, ‘Meet the Browns’ like Perry’s previous projects has a deep moralistic message of redemption but despite a strong dramatic performance from Bassett fails to garner gut-wrenching laughs.
“I want to show how something very positive can come of a negative situation,” says Perry. “I want my films to be relevant to people’s lives and give them hope, so it’s important to deal with subjects like single parenthood and poverty, but at the same time point the way forward through laughter, love and faith.”
Madea, the overbearing but well-intentioned woman who serves both as comic relief and the voice of conscience is also woven into the story line appearing at the end in a side splitting car chase and setting the scene for “Madea Goes to Jail,” which Perry says he’s currently working on. With another upcoming project staring Alfre Woodard and Jennifer Hudson scheduled for release later this year and a script in progress about power couple Barack and Michelle Obama, Perry may have found a generic formula for success but is quick to point out the many differences in his work.
“If you look at “Diary” and “Madea’s Family Reunion” and this movie, it’s a more of a Madea kinda of brand -- a broad comedy with drama,” says Perry. “If you look at “Daddy’s Little Girls” and “Why Did I Get Married?” and the one that I am working on right now “The Family That Preys” with Alfre it’s also a different kind of brand so there are two different brands at work and both are going in different directions. I don’t work in fear and I don’t wave out what the next move is. Whatever comes to me is what I will do.”