Review by James Lindorf
The road trip movie will forever be a cinema staple with many great examples. From “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” to the Best Picture-winning “Green Book” and the aptly named “Road Trip,” the genre is geared towards comedy but has plenty of opportunity for heart. The latest entry in the genre is “Half Brothers”, written by Jason Shuman and Eduardo Cisneros with Luke Greenfield directing. As a child, Renato (Luis Gerardo Méndez), now a reserved and successful aviation executive, idolized his father until the day he left to find work. When Renato receives a call about the failing health of his father, who he hasn’t seen in 20 years, he decides to make the long trip to see him. The surprises don’t end with that fateful call because Renato is shocked to discover he has an American half-brother, the free-spirited Asher (Connor Del Rio). The two have nothing in common and no desire to form a bond after a disastrous first encounter. However, their father’s passing sends this odd couple on a road journey together, tracing the path their father took as an immigrant from Mexico to the US. The journey starts when Focus Features releases “Half Brothers” in theaters on December 4th, 2020.
Beneath the jokes and bickering, “Half Brothers” has a serious message to share about the economic impact on families and how iron-fisted immigration policies have been tearing families apart for decades. It is there if you look for it or consider how the family ended up in the current situation. Still, it is subtextual enough certain audiences shouldn’t find it off-putting. Heart in a comedy is great, but it is not what people are buying tickets for, and the films sink or swim based on the quality of their humor.
Many of the “Half Brothers” most successful jokes play on the stereotypes Americans and Mexicans have of one another. These including a running joke about ziplining, how dangerous Mexico can be, and how fat Americans are. The rest of the comedy is broader, slapstick, and oddly goat obsessed, which is hit and miss at best. Méndez has the more difficult task as the strait man compared to Del Rio’s whacky comedic relief character, and he carries the film beautifully. Renato is the best kind of snarky and snobbish without being off-putting, which is a narrow line to walk. Del Rio is good as Asher, but he is overshadowed by Méndez and may have been a bit too old for the role. The two actors look close to the same age when there should be at least a 10-year gap.
There is a lot to like about “Half Brothers”. The legitimate and vital message and the performance of Luis Gerardo Méndez chief among them. However, this road trip sputters and stalls a little too often to be the next classic road trip film. That being said, it still outpaces some of its competition like, “Get Him to the Greek” or “The Bounty Hunter,” which have fewer jokes and far less substance.
Rating: PG-13 for Violence and Language
Original Language: English
Director: Luke Greenfield
Producer: Jason Shuman, Eduardo Cisneros, Luke Greenfield, Jason Benoit
Writer: Eduardo Cisneros, Jason Shuman
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