It was with a certain amount of trepidation that I settled down to watch Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Movie yesterday afternoon. The main reason will be explained in due course, but there was also a very real concern that the July sunshine might have a bad effect on my Maltesters. . . .
I should point out that Mrs Brown’s Boys is my favourite situation comedy . . . ever. I’ve lost count of the number of shows I’ve watched, from the “golden age” of the British sit-com in the 1970s, right through to the present day, and the fact is that Mrs Brown’s Boys makes me laugh louder and longer than any other comedy.
Many will disagree—but there’s no shame in being wrong!
Obviously I realise the subjective nature of television, and the fact that there are aspects of this particular show that will simply not appeal to certain sections of the watching public. But much as I may have an outwardly miserable demeanour, I love to laugh . . . and if a programme can actually make my cry with laughter, then it must be something special.
Mrs Brown’s Boys is something special.
The reason why I was “trepidating” yesterday, was because I really wasn’t sure whether or not the show would successfully translate to the big screen. Part of the success of the sit-com is the “situation” itself; the limited number of locations gives the viewer a comfort that comes from “normality”, and allows him or her to focus on, and engage with the characters.
But in Mrs Brown’s Boys’ case, there is arguably more to it. Being filmed in front of a live studio audience offers an instant reaction—an audible instant reaction—and the actors can respond to, or engage with an audience in a way that simply cannot be replicated in a cinematic environment.
The inclusion of outtakes, bloopers, call them what you will, in the television series was an inspired idea. Sometimes things that go wrong (intentionally or otherwise) are funnier than the scripted jokes, and to retain some of these moments in a televised recording does allow this particular sit-com to stand out.
In my opinion. . . .
Without all of the above, you risk losing one or more elements of a proven winning formula. Look how badly some truly great sit-coms translated to film: Dad’s Army, Steptoe & Son, Are You Being Served? etc. I’m sure Brendan O’Carroll had his concerns, but if you don’t try. . . .
So what was the verdict?
When on one level, I was proved right: the Maltesers did start to melt. As for the film, well I think it would be fair to say that it didn’t reach the comedic heights of the television series, but it most definitely had its moments. The inclusion of a few “mistakes” was a clever move—and provided some of the movie’s funniest moments. The external scenes didn’t all work, but there were notable exceptions along the way, and I absolutely get the homage to Dublin—a “fair City” I’ve never visited, but definitely will . . . one day.
Perhaps surprisingly, where the film succeeds, is the way in which pathos is created. At its most basic level, it’s not easy to emotionally engage with a character that’s just “a bloke in a fecking dress”, but such is the quality of the writing that we somehow identify with Agnes. Perhaps in her, and in her family, we feel some connection, something intangible from our past that makes their situation real. You end up seeing beyond the funny lines, and the ridiculous escapades, to the very heart of Agnes Brown.
Empathy plays a part in the thirty-minute sit-com, but it’s the funny lines that initially draw in an audience. You’re not going to keep an audience laughing for ninety minutes, but in amongst the verbal and visual comedy, a movie offers a rare opportunity to create something much more memorable—Brendan O’Carroll and everyone associated with the wonderful Mrs Brown’s Boys may well have just grabbed that opportunity.