In making a comedy/drama, sometimes it’s hard to balance those two elements. A prime example is the new movie Half Brothers.
The plot setup is not a new one: a person discovers that he or she has a previously unknown sibling. Layered atop that situation in Half Brothers is a story of their father’s immigration from Mexico to the U.S.
Renato (Luis Gerado Méndez) is an engineer in Mexico who finds out that his dad is dying. Although he carries anger at his father because dad left Mexico and never returned, he goes to Chicago to say goodbye.
He learns that his dad has another son, Asher (Connor Del Rio). Renato and Asher are extreme opposites: The straight-laced engineer and the weirdo free spirit. As he makes a deathbed apology, dad sends the half brothers on a road trip/scavenger hunt to find out the whole story of his abandonment of Renato.
Here’s where the comedy/drama balance goes off track. After a heart-tugging opening, the film ventures into a tale of Asher’s goofy behavior (including his adoption of a goat as their traveling companion) versus Renato’s desire to wrap up the mystery and return home to Mexico for his wedding. The movie’s drift back into dramatic territory before its non-surprising ending is clumsy and seems not to jibe with the rest of the movie.
As I viewed Half Brothers, I kept thinking of the 2010 movie Due Date starring Robert Downey Jr. as a guy on a road trip with a similarly annoying goofball played back Zack Galifianakis. And Asher comes off as a poor imitation of Zack G.
Will the brothers bond and get along? Will Renato make it back in time for his wedding? Will Renato warm up to his distant stepson-to-be? You can probably guess those outcomes.
In its favor, the film is not at all condescending toward Mexicans and and shows a good deal of sympathy for those who attempt to come into the U.S. from Mexico.
Half Brothers is directed by Luke Greenfield whose resumé includes Let’s Be Cops and The Girl Next Door. It is playing at a handful of theaters. When it shows up on cable and streaming platforms early next year, you may find it worthy of 90 minutes or so of your time. It’s an okay movie: not bad, not great. Rated PG-13.