Film Review: Brother Nature

Uninspired and unfunny script and direction are the undoing of this labored farce. And then there's Bobby Moynihan...
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Nice-guy politician Roger (Taran Killam) is running for Congress and about to propose to his lovely girlfriend, Gwen (Gillian Jacobs), during a lakeside holiday to meet her family. Unfortunately, this idyllic prospect is shattered by the decided eccentricity of her clan, especially a demonically obstreperous future brother-in-law, Todd (Bobby Moynihan), a camp counselor who behaves as if he's on a combo of crystal meth and way too many tequila shots.

That's pretty much it in a nutshell, in this latest offering from producer Lorne Michaels, who once more rounds up select members of his “Saturday Night Live” cast he deems ready for prime time—i.e., motion-picture stardom. A pity, then, that Brother Nature is not one of his winning entries in the vein of the Wayne's World series, spotlighting a profoundly unfunny Moynihan. This latest and least in a long line of heavy-set “SNL” comic relief (John Belushi, Chris Farley, Horatio Sanz, et al.) induces more groans than true laughs with his histrionics, alternately neck-throttlingly "hilarious" and simperingly Chaplinesque. The writing (by Killam and Mikey Day) and direction is cartoonishly obvious, so suffocatingly heavy-handed that any breath of fresh comic air finds no entry whatsoever.  

As Roger's exasperation mounts to the point where he punches Todd (signaling an excruciating bromantic makeup scene betwixt them), the real climax of the film occurs during a fishing moment wherein he tries to humanely remove the hook stuck in the lip of the hapless giant trout he has caught. Said fish is actually a familiar vacations-old friend to the family, especially Gwen's father (Bill Pullman, doing his tired, crinkly-faced, fake-affable routine), so true horror and utter revulsion towards Roger set in when he accidentally tears the head off his catch, causing blood to spew everywhere in tumultuous fountains. Funny? (Animal activists will be horrified.)

Killam, a more-than-able farceur recently unceremoniously and mysteriously fired from “SNL,” has a Jason Sudeikis potential as movie leading man, but his self-written straight-man role to Moynihan's endless antics is basically thankless. Jacobs provides more interest, with a perky comic spark that is largely wasted. That true non-hilarious blight of Michaels' long-running series, Kenan Thompson (who somehow manages to stay employed), makes an appearance as a sort of shaman and is—surprise of surprises—hammily tiresome. Giancarlo Esposito plays Roger’s political mentor, whom he is poised to replace, and does nothing to enliven this farrago. And Rita Wilson, carefully done up to resemble more Jacobs' sister than her mom, gives a rote, blandly genial performance that is profoundly unexciting.

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