Half Brothers (2016)

Genres - Comedy Drama  |   Run Time - 89 min.  |  
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Review by Jules Fox

Half Brothers is a happy go lucky road trip comedy film that aims at the heart, but it ends up at a surprising destination instead. Days before he is to be married, successful aviation exec Renato receives a phone call that his long-estranged father is terminally ill. To help quell his current issues, he goes to make peace with his father and discovers not only that he has a fun-loving and zany half-brother he never knew about, but also that his father has arranged a road trip for the two of them to discover why their father never came back for either of them.

Growing up in Mexico, young Renato (Ian Inago) and his father Flavio (Juan Pablo Espinosa) are the best of friends - solving puzzles and playing with radio-controlled airplanes together. But hard times make work scarce, and Flavio promises Renato and his mother he is going to go earn some money in the United States so he can support them all, and that he will be back soon. But the years pass, and he does not come back nor send any money.

Present-day Renato (Luis Gerardo Méndez) is at the top of his game at his job, and he is gearing up to marry his lovely sweetheart Pamela (Pia Watson) when he receives a phone call out of the blue that his father is dying, and that he must visit him in the United States. Despite his better judgment and at his wife's urging to help make sense of his issues revolving around his father, Renato flies to the US, a place he loathes, to try to make peace with his father.

But any answers he was expecting are interrupted by an obnoxious red-headed oaf named Asher (Connor Del Rio), who as it turns out, is also Renato's half-brother. Their shared father Flavio has left them a map and some clues; one last puzzle so that the brothers can make sense of their fathers' own immigration journey from Mexico to the US.

Along the way, Renato and Asher encounter a host of zany, slapstick adventures that lead them to form a deeper bond with one another, despite their many differences. Flashbacks to what their father went through 25 years previously give some insight into why he never returned. But the question remains as to whether or not Renato will make peace with his inner demons based on what he finds out.

Directed by Luke Greenfield (Let's Be Cops, The Girl Next Door) there is more hit-and-miss comedy than heart. But where stabs have been taken at serious messaging, the film mostly falters. This wouldn't be a bad thing if so many moments weren't spent flipping between what could have just been a road trip comedy movie about an odd couple who grew up on different sides of the border with a poignant message. But both despite and because of their differences, it is nice to watch the two brothers riff off each other.

Half Brothers offers enough for an enjoyable romp, and the pacing of all the antics is a lot of fun. But when it comes to the darker parts of the story, the heavy-handedness feels out of place, as though it were either thrown into the story to add dramatic tension, or perhaps the original idea to tell the story of that movie wasn't palatable, so the comedy was added in to make the movie worth watching.

There is something likeable about the simplicity of the road trip mystery map part of Half Brothers, which is most of it. While it's not sure if it ever wants to go completely over the top or hold actual meaning, it kind of misses both marks and ends up at an uneven ground.