Brothers Solomon, The

Reviewed By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 09/07/07 00:17:16

"It's Funny--I'm As Surprised As You Are!"
4 stars (Worth A Look)

It should be noted right up front that the title characters of the new comedy “The Brothers Solomon” are not the kind of cretinous idiots that you might expect to see based on the evidence of the trailers, commercials or even the one-sheet hanging in your local multiplex–they may be clueless and hopelessly naive to the extreme but they are not the kind of instantly unlikable twerps normally played by the likes of Adam Sandler or Rob Schneider. This is an important distinction to make because if they were cretins, it would have rendered the basic premise of the project–a couple of goofy brothers desperately trying to father a child–all but unplayable and it would have turned the resulting film into a bit of sheer unpleasantness that might have come across as being something closer in tone to the likes of “Dead Ringers” than to “Knocked Up.” Because the characters are essentially likable at their core, the premise never becomes as distasteful as it might have otherwise been and as a result, what may look on the surface to be just another lame “SNL” spinoff along the lines of “A Night at the Roxbury” or “The Ladies Man” turns out to be an endearingly daffy and unexpectedly funny comedy that is infinitely more hilarious than it looks or sounds.

When we first meet our heroes, close-knit brothers John and Dean Solomon (Will Arnett and Will Forte), they are each out on the prowl trying to score with the ladies. Alas, a lifetime of home schooling and insular pursuits have left them wholly unsuited for social interaction and their attempts to woo the fairer sex are so dismally awkward that they would give the Fenstruk brothers pause–John learns the hard way that buying a strange woman her groceries does not immediately lead to her heart and Dean’s big date goes downhill when he greets the girl’s father in a manner that suggests what Michael did to Fredo before sending him to Tahoe. Disaster looms when their beloved father (Lee Majors) slips into a coma just after mentioning that his greatest desire would be to see his first grandchild. In an effort to keep him alive, the brothers decide to do everything they can to father a child and after some early missteps (one including a cameo appearance from the always-welcome Jenna Fischer), they come across Janine (Kristen Wiig), who offers to serve as a surrogate mother for $10,000. While the fertilization process comes easily enough (pun definitely intended), it soon becomes evident that the brothers have a lot–a lot–to learn about being responsible parents before the birth and so the rest of the film details with their struggles to prove their abilities to raise a child when it seems as if they are barely able to take care of themselves.

As plots go, this is about as threadbare as they come and it quickly becomes evident that “The Brothers Solomon” is going to simply be a bunch of gag scenes loosely strung together by the most tenuous narrative possible. This is not always a good sign for a comedy, as the few of you who actually saw “Hot Rod” can attest, but in the case of this film, it works because the situations dreamed up by screenwriter Forte are unusually inspired–the delirious daftness of some of the jokes may remind you of some of the stranger W.C. Fields vehicles in their surrealistic silliness. At several points in the film, it seems as if the joke is going to go in one direction only to spin off into wholly unanticipated areas, such as the requisite visit to the sperm bank and its unusually eclectic magazine rack. At other times, the laughs come from thoroughly bizarre bits of business that come out of nowhere and absolutely blindside you with their weirdo humor–I’m thinking of the exceedingly strange game of darts played by the brothers and the way in which John commemorates his brief hot-tub rendezvous with a sexy neighbor (Malin Akerman) by doing something unspeakable to the wet footprint she leaves on the deck as she flees in revulsion. Then there are the jokes that figure out a way to combine both approaches–the single funniest bit in the film is one involving a banner being towed by an airplane that starts off funny, twists around into something even funnier and then manages to somehow come up with the perfect topper for the end of the scene. While much of the credit should go to the screenplay, the saving grace for many of the gags is the way that Arnett and Forte throw themselves into the weirdness with heedless abandon–the characters they are play are utter loons but they portray them in such a straightforward manner that you can’t help but sort of like them, even after you get a load of their methods of training for the unpleasant duty of diaper changing

To be fair, “The Brothers Solomon” doesn’t quite hit the comic peaks of “Superbad” or even “Knocked Up”–some of the scenes are admittedly hit-and-miss, there is an entire subplot involving John’s efforts to woo his sexy neighbor that appears to exist only to get Malin Akerman into a tiny bikini (not that there is anything wrong with that) and the last few minutes of the film begin to traffic in the kind of treacly sentiment that it studiously avoided up until that point–and I am certain that no one will be mistaking it for a masterpiece of the genre anytime soon. That said, it packs a lot of amusingly rude gags into its relatively brief running time and as the end credits begin to roll, you may find yourself as surprised over how much you laughed as I was. At the very least, I can pretty much guarantee that if you do see “The Brothers Solomon,” you will never, ever be able to listen to the theme song from “St. Elmo’s Fire” in the same way again.

© Copyright HBS Entertainment, Inc.