Tyler Perry's signature character Madea returns -- albeit briefly -- in Perry's latest film, Meet the Browns, but she is not expected to give Perry his fourth No. 1 weekend. Madea may be big, but not elephant big, and an elephant in the shape of Dr. Seuss's Horton will likely be sitting at the top of the box office with about $25-30 million by the time the last Easter bonnet leaves the theater, according to most box-office forecasters. Nevertheless several have noted that Perry, whose latest film is expected to earn around $20 million, has been underestimated before. Josh Friedman, who writes a weekly box-office analysis for the Los Angeles Times, said today (Friday) that Meet the Brownscould beat Horton Hears a Who! if Perry's "fans turn out in force." Friedman observed, "Perry's movies typically outperform the tracking surveys, and the hunch here is that another surprise is in store, thanks to the filmmaker's fervent following among churchgoers and African American women." Also opening wide is the comedy Drillbit Taylor, starring Owen Wilson as a soldier of fortune hired to protect three teenage boys from their high-school tormenters. It's expected to attract mostly teens and tweens and take in $12-15 million.


Like previous Tyler Perry movies, Meet the Brownswas not screened for critics -- at least not in the U.S. Philip Marchand of the Toronto Stareither attended a press screening or a preview not intended for the likes of himself. "Viewers at the screening I attended laughed uproariously" at one of the character's malapropisms, he writes. "To this hilarity I remained indifferent," he added, "and [also] to Perry's manipulation of plot for maximum emotional effect." Nevertheless, he concludes, "It would take a stony critic, however, to dismiss entirely the movie's tribute to the virtues of perseverance and generosity."


New York Timescritic A.O. Scott says that he counts himself among the admirers of Judd Apatow's comedies but considers Drillbit Taylor the way he would a fashion company's discount line. Taking note of a tag line on ads for the movies that says "You get what you pay for," Scott remarks, "I saw it free, and I still feel cheated." Most other major critics express similar disappointment. "Four years into the Judd Apatow comedy revolution, the troops are beginning to show signs of battle fatigue," writes Peter Howell in the Toronto Star.Kyle Smith in the New York Postbegins his review with this opening shot: "The last time I saw this much talent in a losing cause was Super Bowl XLII." And Kevin Crust in the Los Angeles Times describes it as "an unremarkable patchwork comedy." Owen Wilson, who reportedly is being treated for depression following a suicide attempt, is not likely to be lifted out of it by Drillbit's reviews. Several reviews suggest, however, that Wilson's talents are wasted in the film. "Wilson has occasional funny moments here, but he's hampered by a disjointed story and bland, slapstick gags," writes Claudia Puig in USA Today. And Mick LaSalle in the San Francisco Chroniclecomments: "There's a raging gulf between Owen Wilson's talent and the quality of his movies. His comic timing, his distinct look, his versatility, his combination of darkness and light, his verbal dexterity, his ease in his body and his engaging personality all argue in favor of an actor who should be banking one terrific movie after another. And if not terrific, good. And if not good, respectable. And if not respectable, at least not embarrassing." Drillbit Taylor, LaSalle suggests, represents the latter.


British actor Paul Scofield, who won an Oscar for his performance as Sir Thomas More in the 1966 film A Man for All Seasons died of leukemia on Wednesday at the age of 86. An obituary in today's (Friday) New York Timesobserved that in the 1940s and '50s, Scofield established himself as "the leading actor of his generation" but that after winning his Oscar, his film appearances became "sporadic." He himself had resisted the call of Hollywood, the newspaper said, while quoting him as having once remarked, "Something told me, don't go. ... Very, very few English actors managed to work successfully in Hollywood."