Mrs Brown’s Boys: D’Movie: The film is out and it's dreadful

But who cares what one snobby critic thinks when box office takings are going through the roof, asks Archie Bland

Asked to comment on the international success of Mrs Brown’s Boys recently, Brendan O’Carroll explained his view that Irishness can travel well, with reference to his cultural forebears. “We have to have more faith in the audience,” he said. “Look, Sean O’Casey’s plays have toured all over the world. Ulysses is required reading at universities all over the world. Somewhere along the line, that inferiority complex set in.”

That complex, I reflected as I settled in at a Cineworld at 10.40am earlier this week, does not appear to have affected O’Carroll himself. It takes nerve to translate your studio sitcom to the big screen, and if the mastermind of Mrs Brown’s Boys: D’Movie isn’t comparable to James Joyce in every respect, he certainly shares his unflinching self-belief. Indeed, the film’s producers were sufficiently confident in their product that they decided to do without the usual screenings for critics.

Rory Cowan, who plays Mrs Brown’s son, explained the thinking with reference to the show’s former run-ins with the press: “The critics were totally irrelevant, it didn’t matter what they said, so about 10 years ago, we stopped letting them come along,” he said. “I couldn’t care less what some journalists say about us.” Can’t argue with that, really. While this move doesn’t usually portend that the movie in question is a classic, you can’t blame O’Carroll and his cohorts for concluding that the views of the critics are so beside the point. On the opening weekend, Mrs Brown’s army of fans propelled it to a hefty £4.3m across the UK and Ireland. It still stands atop the box office chart today.

When I call Peter Bennett-Jones, the agent and producer who was behind the big-screen transitions of Mr Bean, and Kevin and Perry, to ask for an explanation of this phenomenon, he’s pretty blunt. “No one is going to see these movies on the basis of reviews anyway,” he says. “If you’re a producer you’re more worried about what the paying audience think.”

Shane Allen, the BBC’s Comedy Commissioning Controller, agrees. He points to a snobbery in the comedy world, too. “Some of it goes back to when alternative comedy came along,” he says. “A lot of the tastemakers were forged in the fire of that. They think the only interesting comedy is pioneering. Well, you always have to have those things, but there will always be a residual love of the studio sitcom.”


Anyway, irrelevant though they may be, the few critics who have ventured to the multiplex to see the sitcom’s big-screen incarnation have not been wildly enthusiastic. And while I rather cringed at the prospect of joining their snooty ranks, I’m afraid I can’t say I laughed, or even smiled, once in the whole godforsaken 93 minutes.

Before we get to the main action, in which Mrs Brown does battle with some tiresome Russian villains who have designs on her market stall, we get her voiceover detailing the location of the cinema’s fire exits. “Find a male,” she adds, “in case we have to ejaculate the building.” Ejaculate! Sounds like evacuate, means something rude. Route one stuff, but the other two people in the cinema, 86-year-old Alice Chambers and her daughter Carol, absolutely lose it at this point, and are rarely completely composed for the next hour and a half. “Five out of five,” Alice says afterwards. “A proper comedy with jokes in. Didn’t you like it? Why did you come, then?”

Last laugh: Mrs Brown’s creator Brendan O’Carroll Last laugh: Mrs Brown’s creator Brendan O’Carroll

Because someone made me, Alice, that’s why. I’m afraid her mildly menacing enthusiasm did not win me over. Mrs Brown works, on its own terms, as a wonky but energetic sitcom; on the big screen, it’s a catastrophe. Where the show is fast, prickly and anarchic, the movie is slow, sentimental, and altogether cynical. As far as the jokes go, it turns out they don’t really come off without the raucous laughter of a devoted studio audience to paper over the cracks.

All this will put me in Mr O’Carroll’s bad books as one of those snobby metropolitan sorts. Well, fine. I don’t see why anyone is obliged to like it just because it does well at the box office, though. There’s something weird, and a bit tyrannical, about the idea that critics are somehow doing their job wrong by expressing an opinion that dares diverge from the popular verdict.

In any case, it doesn’t really matter. It is now absolutely clear that Mrs Brown is a slating-proof juggernaut. And the commercial hit that goes down badly with the reviewers provides plenty of compensations, even for the sensitive filmmaker. “You brace yourself for being traduced,” says Peter Bennett-Jones. “And then you take $250m. That puts a pretty big smile on your face.”

Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’


Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'


Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from


Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
Owen said he finds films boring but Tom Hanks managed to hold his attention in Forrest Gump
Arts and Entertainment
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
Music Album is set to enter UK top 40 at lowest chart position in 30 years
Arts and Entertainment
The Michael McIntyre Chat Show airs its first episode on Monday 10 March 2014
Arts and Entertainment


These heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North
books'The Narrow Road to the Deep North' sees the writer become the third Australian to win the accolade
Arts and Entertainment
New diva of drama: Kristin Scott Thomas as Electra
Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Daenerys Targaryen, played by Emilia Clarke, faces new problems

Sek, k'athjilari! (That’s “yes, definitely” to non-native speakers).

Arts and Entertainment
Polly Morgan

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Let's talk about loss

    We need to talk about loss

    Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album