Every film has its own required context to experience it properly. It is not only what we watch that matters, experientially, but how and why. A Marvel film must only be watched within the eventized auditorium setting of the cinema. Christopher Nolan’s oeuvre must only be experienced in true IMAX or Dolby, for no other speakers may feel up to making the movie intelligible. Little Italy (2018), and all pizza-based romantic comedies, must be experienced at home, when my wife suffers my occupation, and demands that I do literally anything else with my time. What of Half Brothers, a half-hearted comedy with a little bit of heart? A comedy such as that must require at least a game audience. Would we watch it alone at home, when searching for anything to watch? There could be no plausible reason to do so. Ideally, you see such a comedy with a loose crowd and light standards for laughs. They are going to the movies to laugh, and by god, that is exactly what they will do.
The other outcome is to watch Half Brothers alone for screening purposes. It becomes a vacuous prospect eventually, engaging with every film the same way as the last. Movie after movie. Just you and the screen. Only a MacBook to share your laughter with, and your tears. The stubborn and forced isolation of a year spent trying our damndest to engage with any sort of humanity. We would latch onto anything as mildly effortful as Half Brothers, half an effort to achieve modest entertainment while alone with the computer, again.
Is Half Brothers, the new film from director Luke Greenfield, known for Rob Schneider’s The Animal (2001), any good? It’s a complicated question. The director’s movies are not good. Textually, they fail to deliver upon basic premises, while retaining a modicum of entertainment. His The Girl Next Door (2004) — a very important movie to a young critic — is a bad movie I really like. It has a fine script and really moves, and Elisha Cuthbert is so alluring that the rest is purely academic. What is the saving grace, then, of Half Brothers?
Here is where our premise is crucially important. Half Brothers does require a game audience. The mawkish sentimentality, prescribed comedy. A dose of exactly what you sign up for. It does not have any genuine intrigue or uniqueness of spirit and only a little heart. It’s a road movie in search of a plot. Aren’t those always better with friends? With a full theater, full of couples of friends? Is this review becoming a plea for human contact, among all its many questions?
Would I not want to invent my own half brother from Mexico, just to share this experience with? The story is that Renato (Luis Gerardo Méndez) once had a doting father in Mexico. They used to fly remote control planes together in badly photographed flashback sequences. His Dad abandoned him for the States and went and created his nuisance of a brother Asher (Connor Del Rio). The story then becomes about finding ourselves, a teachable moment in which Renato might reclaim his childhood, and learn to become a more viable father figure himself.
There is potentially something usable in there. A brother interest story. Seen with my half brother (the one I do have, not my imagined one from before), could it not be somewhat heartwarming and life-affirming, especially in the middle of all-this-madness, to feel the momentary warmth of a perfectly disposable comedy?
With present circumstances ruling out even a meeting among family, so many movies are lost at sea. They may exist, but their purpose and context of space has been thieved from there. Whether or not Half Brothers would have made it to theaters, and it seems like it could have done well or at least had a uniting cross-cultural purpose at the movies, its opportunity has been stolen from it. As such, we don’t hold these outcomes totally against it. You could imagine, the score would always stay the same, no matter the audience. But the experience of the movie. That is sacred. You only get to see every movie for the first time once. Isn’t it the greatest shame, in the history of film, that we’ve spent an entire year doing it alone?