Mark Reviews Movies

THE BROTHERS SOLOMON

2 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Bob Odenkirk

Cast: Will Arnett, Will Forte, Kristen Wiig, Chi McBride, Malin Akerman, Lee Majors

MPAA Rating: R  (for language and sexual content)

Running Time: 1:31

Release Date: 9/7/07


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Review by Mark Dujsik

It's impossible to overlook the major inconsistency with the titular siblings of The Brothers Solomon. Writer and co-star Will Forte can't decide if they're inept nice guys or stupid jerks. On the surface, they might seem like overly happy losers, but they've got an occasional mean streak that defies that impression. They're supposed to be an extreme version of polite, cheerful guys, but they come across as socially retarded and just plain dumb. That's a mild disparity, but it's enough to make this less of a story of nice guys finishing last than of kids saying the darnedest things. In other words, they're not annoying at first, but they get there enough times to hamper the degree to which we might like them. I'll give them this much: They're never outright grating. The movie continues the impossible-to-stop tradition of "Saturday Night Live" cast members moving on to the big screen in starring roles, but I doubt Forte and co-star Will Arnett (who's had a few amusing moments as a supporting player in a few movies) are going to go far in that respect. At best here, they're white-bread comic actors; there's nothing that distinguishes them.

The movie starts off a drag with a no-joke gag about the brothers setting up a dating website profile (which also clumsily serves to tell us their back story) and an opening credit sequence that features the starring duo giving cheesy smiles to the camera. Then we see John (Arnett) and Dean (Forte) on separate "dates."  John tries to buy random women's groceries for them, catching the wrath of store security, while Dean makes a huge faux pas by kissing his date's father straight on the lips (a line of spittle as they separate tops the moment). Upon returning home, they receive a message from their father (Lee Majors) who has devastating news regarding his health. Before going to the hospital, they go to the video store to argue some late charges (They think dad would have wanted them to do it) and, upon their arrival, find their dad in a coma. The doctor (Charles Chun) tells them they just missed him before he drifted off ("If you had just gotten here ten minutes earlier") and that his final thought was that he wanted to live to see a grandchild. Thinking they can revive their father, the brothers begin a hunt to find a mother.

There's a tightrope act going on in the early part of the movie as the script tries to make these guys likeable but still throw in enough uncomfortable moments for low humor. The balance somewhat works, but it certainly stumbles enough for us to have misgivings about them. The whole thing tumbles when John tells his date (Jenna Fischer) that her face makes up for her body, while Dean comments on his date's weight before she agrees to the deal and meets an unfortunate, obvious demise. Later, they go to an adoption agency and ask about the return policy. The Solomon brothers reveal themselves to be no more than arrogant, spoiled jerks, and the reason for all the past rejections about which they seem so obliviously optimistic become clear. No matter what happens in the course of the movie to try to get us on their side, they never win sympathy. Soon enough, though, they find a match for the situation on Craigslist in the form of Janine (Kristen Wiig, a legitimately funny "SNL"-er), who serves as a reasonable voice to the guys' sometimes hurtful stupidity. Her ex-boyfriend James, on the other hand, just cusses a lot; thankfully, Chi McBride cusses pretty convincingly.

The movie picks up considerably at this point. The brothers have a goal of becoming dads, the comedy becomes more focused, and they begin to aim their stupidity at each other and themselves instead of other people. They're still not likeable, but they become substantially more tolerable. John gets his comeuppance by chasing fruitlessly after his hot neighbor (Malin Akerman) and dreams about licking her wet footsteps (seriously). Instead of insulting others, they play darts, but their version has one brother putting his face against the board. They practice changing diapers, but in their typical attempts to find the positive in all things, they place prizes (quarters, chicken fingers with a strange brown dipping sauce, etc.) as the simulated end result. What random object is with the popcorn is so strange it chokes out a laugh. They build an industrial crib and then throw beer bottles at it to prove how safe it is. It's funnier stuff, this, and while a mandatory fight between the brothers proves comically empty and John gets an undeserved one-up on the neighbor, the movie saves its best, most absurd joke for near the end. It involves a sky banner of such extraordinary length it almost dares you not to laugh.

I have to give credit to The Brothers Solomon for making a mild comeback after such a shaky start and rocky follow-through, and the tolerable version of the Solomons is worth a few chuckles in addition to the bigger jokes that start to work. Still, this is a decidedly mixed bag, one that never gets over its inherent fault but still makes a mediocre effort.

Copyright 2007 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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