A film review by Craig J. Koban

 

 

 

THE BROTHERS SOLOMON j

2007, R, 91 mins.

 

John: Will Arnett / Dean: Will Forte / Janine: Kristen Wiig / James: Chi McBride / Ed: Lee Majors

Directed by Bob Odenkirk / Written by Will Forte

You know a comedy is in trouble when the blooper reel that is put in its end credits suck.

Usually these outtakes are a pathetic attempt to keep viewers in their seats.  I have enjoyed blooper reels before, even in the worst screen comedies (the one from CANNONBALL RUN was arguably more funny that any five minutes of footage from the film).  In THE BROTHERS SOLOMON we essentially get not flubs and mistakes, but a series of what appears to be extended or deleted scenes and alternate takes of scenes from the movie.  This might be the first feature film that mournfully tries to have DVD bells and whistles in the actual theatrical feature that I can recall.

The painful desperation of this film does not end there.  THE BROTHERS SOLOMON makes two other fatalistic errors in judgment: It tries - and thinks - it’s side-splittingly funny and it attempts to resurrect the already dormant career of Lee "THE FALL GUY and SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN" Majors.  In the latter case, the star is thankfully reduced to playing his character in a coma throughout 99 per cent of the film, allowing him to essentially sleep through this monumentally unfunny farce.  The way THE BROTHERS SOLOMON has mercy on his soul is worth the one star rating alone.

There are several things that are remorsefully wrong with this film.  Perhaps its largest fault is that it creates such a unyielding level of silence in the theatre while watching it.  There is no worse sound in an audience while watching a comedy that a genuine lack of sound.  I sat in the cinema throughout all of THE BROTHERS SOLOMON and could count on half of the fingers on one hand how many times I heard laughter from the fellow patrons.  That is the ultimate kiss of death for a comedy.

As an exercise in teeth-grating, finger-nails on a chalkboard pratfalls and sight gags, THE BROTHERS SOLOMON is the ultimate endurance test.  Nothing is more head-shaking than when a comedy thinks it’s a lot funnier than it actually is.  While watching THE BROTHERS SOLOMON I perpetually felt like I was the exasperated victim of not being in on a joke.  The filmmakers and talent on board certainly seem to think that their film collaboration is uproarious, but what about the people that will eventually see the film?  Shouldn’t they also be in on the joke?  The movie is just one big build up without a punch line.

What in the world is wrong here? There is certainly talent aboard for the ride.  Will Forte - definitely not among the fine, A-grade SNL alumni - is certainly funny in his not-ready-for-prime time gig.  The same could also be said for fellow SOLOMON co-star and the film’s second SNLer, Kristin Wiig, who is the best female performer on the late night program, not to mention that she was so effortlessly droll in a small part of the shady, undermining E! Network stooge in this year’s best comedy, KNOCKED UP.  Then there is the criminally underrated comic talent of Will Arnett, who arguably gave the most hilarious supporting performance in recent sitcom memory in the great and short lived ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT.  In that show he played a really, really bad magician, and I still bowl over with laughter every time I hear him utter the line, "I don't do tricks, I do magic.  Tricks are something that whores do for money."

Hee-hee.

Yet, there is not one ounce of charm, charisma, or apparent comic talent on parade in SOLOMON, which seems to have been infected by some sort of impenetrable virus that has stripped the stars of all of their acerbic wit and whimsicality.  Instead we get Wiig essentially wasted playing things straight against Forte and Arnett (this seems to exhaustively squander all of her comedic abilities). Then we get Forte and Arnett, who I think are trying to play their respective characters as dim-witted idiots with hearts of gold (kind of akin to those same dullards that occupied DUMB AND DUMBER), but here they undeniably fail to generate level of audience empathy for them.  They are so socially inexperienced and awkward that they come across more as creepy stalkers than they do noble-minded simpletons.  Arnett in particular - with his eerie and smug ear-to-ear grin and creepy vocalizations - gives us a character that is about as lovable and endearing as a child pedophile.

Forte and Arnett play the Solomon Brothers, Dean and John, who were never given the opportunity of a normal upbringing.  They were raised by a single father (played by Majors, who looks like he’s had too many bionic upgrades over the years) in - of all places - the Antarctic. They were home schooled and went on to even achieve PhD’s, which is astounding considering their implacable stupidity.  The had very little contact with people in general and their only real experience with members of the opposite sex were with some old Eskimo woman that lived 100 miles away.

They eventually moved to the big city, found an apartment together, and got jobs as scientific researchers...at least I think (the movie never makes it clear).  They are book smart, but have a kindergarten mentality when it comes to women.  Their attempts to score with chicks - as shown in the introductory scenes in the film - are horribly conceived.  John attempts to secure a one night stand at grocery store by paying for a woman’s groceries, whereas Dean makes on catastrophic lapse in judgment when he attempts to get close to his date’s father.  This is shown in the film’s only hilarious and well-timed gag.

Things go bad for the two hapless bros when dear old dad lapses into a coma.  They would have been able to see and speak to their dad before he slipped into it, but they feel the need to make a pit stop at a local video store to dispute a late fee (ho-ho).  They discover from the doctor that it appears that their dad made a comment about wanting a grandchild.  Then, lightning strikes and the two decide to "make a baby for daddy."  Of course, the two are such hopeless swingers when it comes to the ladies.  One night shows John asking his date if she is ovulating, followed by a clumsy, impromptu proposal.  Dean manages to get close to an obese woman, and just as she’s about to go home with him, she is hit by a bus.  Attempts at adoption go no where when Dean asks the agent whether or not they have a return policy.

The two then realize that they will have to take more dire measures.  They turn to Craigslist on-line and manage to find an unmarried woman named Janine (Wiig).  She manages to take advantage of the two idiots by making them pay her for her services above what she initially asked for (they Brothers manage to pay her $12,000, but she only initially wanted $10,000).  The boys get really excited, thinking that they will get multiple chances to plant their seed in Janine, but she disappoints them by saying that they will use artificial means.  All of this does not sit well with her big, hulking boyfriend, James (Chi McBride, dreadfully unfunny), who does not want to see his main squeeze become a surrogate mother.

The rest of the film then careens pitifully out of control into a series of infantile skits that would never make the final cut on a bad SNL broadcast.  Full finger wag of shame needs to be given to Forte, who wrote the film’s lamentably wretched script.  There are a couple of big laughs in it (Dean’s altercation with his date’s father for starters, not to mention a cute scene in the doctor’s office where he asks whether or not his baby will be a cyclops, seeing as only one eye is developed on the fetus).  The film also gets a few smirks and giggles, but beyond that the film is a disagreeable, comic dead zone.

The real error of the film is how John and Dean are presented.  They have PhD’s, but they have the people skills of two mentally stunted children.  So many scenes involving their incredible naivety want to be cute and amusing, but they emerge as kind of vile and sick.  One moment shows them at a playground trying to get a five-year-old girl into their car for ice cream, to which her mother comes in and rushes her daughter to safety.  Of course, these guys are trying to learn what’s it like to be good daddies, but everyone else rightfully thinks that they're child sex offenders.  Is this irony supposed to be funny?

Dean and John are never once likeable or sympathetic, and it never once feels genuine that Wiig’s character would ever, ever grow to love these doofuses.  The only character with any level of common sense is played by the drop-dead gorgeous Malin Akkerman, who plays the brothers’ drop dead gorgeous neighbor.  There is one excruciatingly false moment in the film where Janine tries to tell her that the boys are kind-hearted after she rightfully labels them as losers.  The film tries to paint her as a blond-bombshell bitch without any feelings, but considering the sickening attempts that John engages in to woe her, she’s has plausible disdain for him.

Then there is Chi McBride, playing offensively up to black stereotypes as a foul-mouthed brother with attitude.  The way he is brazenly forced to utter variations of everyone’s favourite f-bomb feels like a pathetic attempt for the film to secure a needlessly raunchy R-rating.  Note to all comedic filmmakers out there: Offensive language is not funny if it's just used to be vulgar for the sake of being vulgar.  Foul words work better when they accentuate a joke, not when they are used to be the joke itself.

Inevitable comparisons of this film to KNOCKED UP seem logical.  The sup-plot with Wiig’s hesitant mother-to-be character draws some obvious correlations, but THE BROTHERS SOLOMON is in no way in the same comic stratosphere as that Judd Apatow laugh riot.  KNOCKED UP knew that the key to making an R-rated sex comedy was to balance the raunch with likeable and sympathetic personalities that viewers could relate to.  THE BROTHER SOLOMON has none of that; instead, we get a comedy of astonishing levels of low worth, filled with readily forgettable and unlikable characters, horribly conceived sight gags and pratfalls, and comic timing and pacing with jokes that borders on elephantine.  As far as excruciatingly unfunny comedies go, THE BROTHERS SOLOMON goes for broke and achieves that dubious honor with very little effort.  Oh, but the film has one incredibly funny dead panned line.  When a frustrated John tells Dean that they will have to find alternate means to get a woman pregnant, Dean thinks for a moment and then responds, "Do you mean anally?"

Hee-hee.

  H O M E