Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie review – 'a flatly indifferent cash-in'

Brendan O'Carroll's Mrs Brown's Boys has reached the big screen spin-off, and may well become as successful as The Inbetweeners Movie – but on this evidence, it doesn't deserve to

• Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie is first in a trilogy, says Brendan O'Carroll

Perhaps some fourth walls just aren't made to be broken. The blowsy Irish market trader Agnes Brown first appeared on screen, played more or less straight by Anjelica Huston, in 1999's Agnes Browne [sic], the actress's shrug-inducing adaptation of Brendan O'Carroll's novel The Mammy. That movie did no business whatsoever, leading writer-performer O'Carroll to reassert control over the character in much the same way Robin Williams did over his family in Mrs Doubtfire: by dragging up. O'Carroll repositioned Agnes as the star of an old-school sitcom that didn't even feign the vaguely progressive leanings of its primetime stablemate Citizen Khan: this really was just a man in a dress, Dick Emery-style, hitting another man repeatedly over the head with a tea tray.

You either found this funny or you didn't, but enough viewers did around the moment of the wildly profitable Inbetweeners film for the BBC beancounters to justify the existence of this latest exercise in brand expansion, announced onscreen as Brendan O'Carroll Mrs Brown's Boys: D'Movie. (Anjelica Huston can, presumably, feck off.) It would not be unfair to say only modest levels of time and money have been expended on it: unlike Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa, where you sensed the presence of a huddling team of writers, striving to craft new material up until the very second the cameras rolled, D'Movie runs with a plotline – Mrs. Brown has to defend her business from multiple threats – which could equally have served any Steptoe and Son or Are You Being Served? spin-off.

Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie Photograph: PR

That a key subplot involves Mrs Brown trying to avoid paying an unexpectedly large tax bill suggests O'Carroll has started writing what he knows, just as George Lucas did around the point the later Star Wars movies got bogged down in committee rooms. Possibly the newly flush writer-star has spent too long negotiating with HMRC, because the comedy here is underwritten at best. Someone mistakes Placido Domingo for a holiday resort. A contrived acronym turns a MP into a PRIC. Film and TV themes (The Pink Panther, The A-Team, The Great Escape) are thrown in, apparently just so we can recognise them. The old-school mildness extends to mild racism: the idea of an Indian trader being mistaken for Jamaican, or a middle-aged Irishman impersonating a Chinese man (introducing O'Carroll's new creation, karate instructor Mr Wang: "Harrow!") is meant to induce big, bronchial wheezes.

Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie Photograph: PR

Sitcom veteran Ben Kellett directs it functionally, venturing brief, touristy exteriors of Dublin – in which sparse numbers of extras are seen congregating – before retreating to safe, obvious, cheap-looking set-bound business. Yet with the exception of an opening fire safety announcement, the sitcom's meta-ness has been dialled back. In this rushed and cramped context, the inbuilt bloopers just look unprofessional, indistinct from the other fluffed or half-hearted material; the new notes of sentiment and whimsy only recall Agnes Brown-with-an-e. You sense O'Carroll has diluted his own show's essence for wider multiplex consumption: while the sitcom could be broad, it was often clever with it, and never this bland.

Unlike Guest House Paradiso or Kevin and Perry Go Large or Keith Lemon, D'Movie is never aggressively, in-your-face bad; it's more a flatly indifferent cash-in – and the devoted fanbase this character has accrued over the past decade may yet rally to ensure it does indeed become another Inbetweeners-style box-office bonanza: comedy is subjective, after all. Yet poking through the thin stew served up here in vain search of the one belly laugh or handful of chuckles that might justify handing over that hard-earned tenner this weekend, one is led to the conclusion comedy has never been quite as subjective as this.

• Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie is first in a trilogy, says Brendan O'Carroll


Mike McCahill

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Mrs Brown’s Boys v Mulholland Drive: a culture showdown
They were named the best sitcom and film of the 21st century, so a movie critic and TV critic swap places to reveal where these contenders shine on the big and small screen

Ryan Gilbey and Bruce Dessau

23, Aug, 2016 @4:23 PM

Article image
Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie is first in a trilogy, , says Brendan O'Carroll

The first film incarnation of the hit TV show, which opens in the UK this Friday, to be followed by two more big-screen spin-offs

Ben Child

23, Jun, 2014 @1:41 PM

Article image
Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie 2 d'layed by Brexit vote
Show’s creator Brendan O’Carroll says funding for sequel has become insecure due to volatile post-referendum conditions

Henry Barnes and agencies

01, Aug, 2016 @9:53 AM

Article image
Mrs Brown's Boys voted best sitcom of 21st century
BBC1 show has failed to wow critics but takes top spot in Radio Times online poll

Jasper Jackson

23, Aug, 2016 @11:11 AM

Article image
From Dwayne Johnson to Mrs Brown's Boys, we defend the indefensible
Anyone can rave over Game Of Thrones, but critics earn their corn going against public opinion. Well, that's what we told our writers when we asked them to defend this lot

Joe Bish, Harriet Gibsone, Luke Holland, Charlie Lyne, Paul MacInnes, Gwilym Mumford, Louis Pattison, RRhik Samadder, Issy Sampson & Sam Wolfson

21, Jun, 2014 @5:00 AM

Article image
Mrs Brown's Boys: D'Movie trailer: a film of 'the worst sitcom ever made'

Brendan O'Carroll's bolshy mam is heading to the big screen. She could just be the new face of avant-garde British cinema, says Xan Brooks

Xan Brooks

31, Mar, 2014 @4:08 PM

Article image
Frank Kelly obituary
Veteran stage and screen actor best known for playing the ranting, drunken Father Jack in the Channel 4 television comedy Father Ted

Stephen Dixon

28, Feb, 2016 @3:05 PM

Article image
Get your hands off my double entendres! Is the smutty pun now under attack?
It is Britain’s favourite type of humour, the go-to gag for everyone from Carry On stars to Bake Off hosts. But are fnarr fnarr jokes just another example of male sexual entitlement?

Ryan Gilbey

07, May, 2018 @12:28 PM

Article image
Russian censors wanted to remove gay character from Mrs Brown's Boys
Creator of the hugely popular sitcom says he turned down a ‘nice licensing fee’ that would have meant writing out character of Rory

Holly Watt

20, Dec, 2017 @4:14 PM

Article image
Mrs Brown's Boys: the chatshow – what a reassuring move by the BBC
The mega success of Dublin’s most offensive widow may gobsmack many, but the BBC knows when it’s on to a good thing – and how to maximise it

Mark Lawson

11, Jan, 2017 @2:52 PM