Brother Nature (2016)

Haven’t the American people suffered enough? Why do we keep getting punished with things most of us never asked for, like Republican presidents or Brother Nature? All I wanted was a vaguely political comedy, which it turns out this movie is neither. Instead, it’s just a ninety minute reel of inanity that almost makes me want to switch back to cable news.

At the center is Roger Fellner (Taran Killam), chief of staff for a retiring congressman. He agrees to run for the seat but won’t make an announcement until after his vacation, that is if he makes it through in one piece. He’s spending the week with his girlfriend’s family at their cabin and also plans to propose to her. Gwen (Gillian Jacobs) is the perfect match for him, a international literacy advocate and all around nice person, which is puzzling since she comes from a family of complete wackadoodles.

Her parents, Cathy and Jerry (Rita Wilson and Bill Pullman) are sensible folk, but they also condone the madness happening under their roof. Gwen has a humorless older sister (Rachael Harris), who brings her equally dull family along, and another sister, Margie (Sarah Burns), a free spirit with an even freer spirit camp counselor boyfriend. It’s this Todd (Bobby Moynihan) guy who is the annoyer in chief, and holy shit does he make the whole trip unbearable. If he isn’t causing the grief, he’s party to it. Some things are minor, like the way he pesters Roger about accepting a Facebook friend request or his need to fall asleep to casino floor white noise, while others are less forgivable. Todd ruins Roger’s carefully arranged date plans with Gwen and instead proposes to his own girlfriend. He later embarrasses his future brother-in-law during a live TV broadcast while also nearly killing him.

If the film succeeds in anything, it’s in making us feel utter sympathy for and kinship with Roger. Look, we’re trapped there with you, and I, for one, would much prefer discussing health care legislation and improvements to Seattle’s infrastructure than decapitating fish. Also Kumail Nanjiani plays Roger’s assistant, and I always want to spend imaginary time with him. But when a man loves a woman, he’s gotta do whatever makes her happy, and for Roger, that means taking part in Gwen’s family’s hijinks. She doesn’t deserve him though because sweet as she may be – and she’s only there to be sweet, the woman seems not to care one whit that her boyfriend hates their aggressive and non-stop shenanigans.

A third act change of heart, the October surprise if you will, does nothing to convince me of the characters’ merits nor does it endear me to the film. Todd doesn’t have to be a manic ball of energy for us to know that he’s super good with kids. Believe it or not, you can be great around children and still not act like a child. The SNL alums should consider this, and not just cowriters Killam and Mikey Day but all those who think their shouty brand of comedy works just as well on the big screen as it does for a variety show sketch. Readers, it doesn’t.

Released: 2016
Prod: Lorne Michaels
Dir: Osmany Rodriguez, Matt Villines
Writer: Mikey Day, Cameron Fay, Taran Killam
Cast: Taran Killam, Bobby Moynihan, Gillian Jacobs, Rita Wilson, Bill Pullman, Kumail Nanjiani, Kenan Thompson, Rachael Harris, Sarah Burns, Giancarlo Esposito
Time: 97 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Reviewed: 2018