Mugging Malaise

'Brothers Solomon' is a dumb-buddy movie so bad that it could actually enhance our culture

In what I can only assume is a bid to pay off his coke dealer, Bob Odenkirk of Mr. Show has made a dumb-guy buddy movie in the mold of such films as Dumb and Dumber, Abbott and Costello Meet Socrates and George and Dick Go to Baghdad. Usually, the dumb-guy buddy-movie, or DGBM, is loathed by critics and enjoyed by audiences. In this case, though, Odenkirk has used his sly genius to direct a DGBM that no one could possibly like.

On paper, The Brothers Solomon sounded like it could be decent. It stars Will Arnett, who was amusing as Gob on Arrested Development. It's directed by Odenkirk, who used to seem like an intelligent guy. And it's a movie, so it is composed of images and a soundtrack designed to play in sequence.

Other than that, though, there's not much to recommend it. In fact, Arnett is horrible in this movie. Worse than horrible. Remember when you were a little kid, and you were watching a monster movie, and you had to constantly hide behind the sofa, because what was on screen was to terrifying to look at? It's like that with Arnett's scenes, only worse, because it's not just a make-believe monster on the screen; it's a real live adult human being mugging and spouting inane dialogue with what seems like the desperate energy of a man watching his career spiraling down the drain of Jim Carrey-esque doom.

Solomon co-stars, and was written by, Will Forte, of Saturday Night Live fame. Well, not so much "fame" as "anonymity." Anyway, Solomon seems like one of those movies based on a one-joke SNL sketch, like The Coneheads or A Night at the Roxbury, but it's more like a movie based on a sketch that was rejected by SNL during the Gilbert Gottfried season.

The story involves a lot of exposition, and the film begins with the titular brothers filling out an online dating form, so as to give us backstory. It turns out that they were raised in the Arctic and so have no experience with women. After the opening, though, there's almost no reference to their Arctic youth, except for a mean-spirited joke at the expense of Inuit women.

The brothers are classic dumb-guy buddies, in that they're stupid and everyone finds them annoying, but they think they're great and they love themselves. Then their dad (Lee Majors) gets sick, and they decide that they need to have a baby before he dies, so they go on a series of dates--more like attempted date-rapes--that are almost completely unbearable to watch.

There's actually something riveting about watching a series of failed jokes. You can't help but wonder what the performers were thinking. But at some point, Brothers Solomon just became so embarrassing that I was hoping Arnett would quit in the middle of the film, and then everyone in the cast and crew would go home, and then there'd just be 45 minutes of white light coming out of the projector, which at least we could read by.

But, no, it goes on and on.

Kristen Wiig, who's pretty funny in Knocked Up, plays a woman whom the brothers hire as a surrogate mom. Normally, Wiig does an engaging oddball act, but here, she's the straight man to the nuclear-powered mugging of Arnett and Forte. Seems like a wasted opportunity, but in spite of the lack of material, she's the film's one saving grace.

In keeping with the boilerplate plotting necessary for dumb comedies, Wiig at first thinks the clueless brothers are huge losers, and then she decides that their love and positive attitude means they'll be great fathers. I wasn't sure why she was convinced of this, because in spite of their love and positive attitude, they remain total assholes throughout the film, and studies have shown that total assholes are not good at child-rearing.

Rounding out the cast is Chi McBride, playing Wiig's boyfriend. He has nothing to work with except a few tired jokes about being black. (When Forte wrote the screenplay, he wrote jokes about being black, because clearly that's what black characters do: They spout jokes about their blackness.) Other than that, he does have a weirdly shaped head. It looks like he's got warp nacelles attached to his temples. I guess that's kind of funny, in a human-deformity sort of way.

But it's not really enough to save this 750-minute-long film. (I didn't check my watch or anything; I just counted the number of times I wanted to leave the theater and divided by 12.)

I will say this in The Brothers Solomon's favor: Lately, I've been thinking it would be fun to teach a course on truly bad films. Most bad films don't teach us anything; they're just cowardly and ineffective. A few films, though, like Elizabethtown, Star Wars: Episode 1--The Phantom Menace and Battlefield Earth, are so excessively bad that we--and by "we," I mean Western society as such--can grow and learn by watching them. It's like when Renaissance people read Paradise Lost and learned from Satan's sins how to be good people. And I think Brothers Solomon joins that list, letting us know that having two incredibly annoying lead characters you just wish would die is not a good way to compose a film.

So thank you, Messrs. Forte, Arnett and Odenkirk, for enhancing our culture and advancing the cause of the arts.

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