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The Fashionably Late Review: The Brothers Solomon

September 6, 2009

(Ed. note: The Fashionably Late Review is a critique of a film released in the last two years — with spoilers, so it can be appropriately reviewed in its entirety. So be warned. If you really wanted to see the following film, you’d have seen it by now.)

The Brothers Solomon (2007) falls victim to a common comedy malady: it’s just too long.  Written by Will Forte, directed by Bob Odenkirk, and starring Forte and Will Arnett as the titular brothers, the movie starts strong, but begins to collapse under the weight of plot development about a third of the way through.  Given that Odenkirk and the Wills cut their teeth on sitcoms, sketch comedy, and broadcast network shows, a half-hour shelf life isn’t surprising (the movie runs 93 minutes).

The film centers around two academically brilliant but socially ineffectual brothers.  As roommates, they share a living space, pastimes (like analyzing frozen core samples), and a scientific approach to girlfriend acquisition.  They are unruffled by the abject failure of their attempts—in fact, it only seems to bolster their determination to crack the code of romantic conquest.  This pursuit becomes more important when their father (Lee Majors) goes into a coma, and the brothers decide to “shock” him out of it by giving him a grandchild.  They must do this through a surrogate mother, though, because of their inability to attract a woman who will agree to more “natural” conception.

The set-up to all this—again, about the first 30 minutes—contains the most consistent stretches of the movie’s oddball humor.  The Wills, who are great in their roles, imbue the Solomon Brothers with a slightly creepy but naïve sexual curiosity that could have come across as too weird, but instead seems more like young boys finding their first Playboy.  Of course this awkwardness is accentuated when they meet their gorgeous but predictably uninterested neighbor, played by Watchmen’s Malin Akerman.  The script uses her mainly as a plot device, and unfortunately doesn’t allow her to do much.  Same with Chi McBride: he plays the Big Black Boyfriend to the surrogate mother (Kristen Wiig), but has a softer side!  This one-note joke gets old quickly, but plays through the whole movie.  Wiig does well enough with her usual deadpan delivery, which worked beautifully in her short scenes in Knocked Up, but it gets a little tiresome over a whole film.

This isn’t to say that there’s nothing to like about the movie: the dialog on the whole is original and pretty clever even when crude.  Some of the scenes with Wiig are well framed and, aided by the soundtrack, have a very Wes Anderson feel to them.  As you would expect with this pedigree, there are some truly hilarious scenes.  However, we expect more from jokes in the hands of Forte and Odenkirk than we actually get.  When you see the aerial banner scene, you’ll understand—it goes on way, way too long.  The movie is just too comically sparse and uneven in the last hour to satisfy.

I hate to do this because I love the Wills and Wiig, and I want to support anything involving Odenkirk (most of us at TBTS are huge fans of Mr. Show, but…

Verdict:  Don’t watch it.

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