Review by Sean Boelman
Mexican comedy films are a particular taste, and while these movies do have their detractors, they consistently manage to bring their audience in with a pitch-perfect balance of laughs and hearts. Luke Greenfield’s Half Brothers may be an Americanization of these ideas, but it will serve as a solid entry point for those unfamiliar with the style.
The film follows a wealthy Mexican businessman who learns that he has an American half-brother when they are sent on a cross-country road trip inspired by their father’s emigration to the United States. Yet even though the movie mostly deals in tried-and-true tropes, it brings a refreshing perspective to the table.
As is the case with most films of this style, the first two thirds are largely goofy and comedic, and then the third act brings it home with a sentimental (but not quite sappy) redemption story. It’s obvious how the movie shoots for the easy emotional targets, but it’s not hard to fall for its heartwarming charms.
If the film does come up significantly short in one regard, it is the fact that all the elements are there for this to be an intriguing commentary on immigration. Every time it seems like the movie is going to hit hard on this important issue, it pulls back on its punch, as if it is afraid of alienating white audiences.
The dynamic that is built between the two brothers is charming but doesn’t have much in the way of substance. It’s a pretty basic uptight stickler/loose cannon pairing in which the former must learn to let go of his ways and enjoy life. It’s a sympathetic arc, but far from the most original that the writers could have used.
Perhaps the biggest thing working in the favor of the film is the chemistry between stars Luis Gerardo Méndez and Connor Del Rio. Both are funny on their own, but the scenes that the two share together are frequently hilarious. Some of the best moments come when they are in the car together and bounce off of each other’s personalities.
Admittedly, the movie is missing a bit of slapstick comedy to bring the laughs home, but there are a few really funny gags. But as is the case with most of the rest of the movie, the gags that are most successful are those which involve both of the actors, not just one of them trying to carry a comedic moment alone.
Half Brothers definitely plays it safe more often than it takes a risk, but for a straightforward comedy, it has enough laughs and heart to be lovable. Luis Gerardo Méndez and Connor Del Rio make a great comedic pair, and it would be awesome to see them do something together again.
Half Brothers hits theaters on December 4.