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"HALF BROTHERS"
(2020) (Luis Gerardo Méndez, Connor Del Rio) (PG-13)


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QUICK TAKE:
Dramedy: Two half-brothers, who couldn't be more different and have never met before, end up on a road trip to solve a mystery left by their late father.
PLOT:

Decades ago, young Renato Murguía (IAN INIGO) was quite close with his father, Flavio (JUAN PABLO ESPINOSA), including sharing their love of all things airplane related. But after the Mexican economy faltered, Flavio ended up having to leave Renato and his mom, Tere (BIANCA MARROQUIN), to look for employment in America with the promise that he'd return.

But he didn't, and all of these years later, Renato (LUIS GERARDO MÉNDEZ) -- who runs an aviation company -- has acted like he doesn't have a father. All of which means he's not exactly primed to be the best stepdad to Emilio (MIKEY SALAZAR), the 10-year-old son of Renato's fiancée, Pamela (PIA WATSON).

His past, however, comes roaring back when he receives a phone call from Flavio's current wife that Flavio is on his deathbed and would like to see his son one more time. Renato is reluctant and only goes at Pamela's insistence. Arriving in the States, his dim view of American's is reinforced by interactions with the locals, including a goofy guy, Asher (CONNOR DEL RIO), who'd like the impatient Renato to buy his coffee.

Renato refuses and heads to the hospital where he not only sees his father, but also that man's grown son -- who just so happens to be Asher. Renato wants no part of either of them and leaves, only to learn that his father left him and Asher a riddle to solve.

Renato is again reluctant and wants to return to Mexico as he and Pamela are getting married in a few days, but ends up roped into a road trip with his half-brother who annoys him to no end. As their journey continues and Renato would like to solve the riddle as soon as possible, he eventually begins to have a different outlook on Asher.

OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10

Perhaps it's due to the easy to mine potential from the basic setup or simply the fact that audiences seem to enjoy some offerings, but Hollywood can't seem to stop making mismatched duo movies including those where two polar opposite characters end up on a road trip and learn a thing or two about each other and themselves.

Following in the four footstep and tire tracks left by predecessors such as "Due Date," "Midnight Run" and "Planes, Trains & Automobiles," "Half Brothers" takes up where they left off and continues the tradition in this 96-minute film from director Luke Greenfield and writers Eduardo Cisneros and Jason Shuman.

In it, Luis Gerardo Méndez and Connor Del Rio respectively play Renato and Asher, two men who clash from the moment they meet (before they know they're about to get paired up) right up until the moment in the third act where they realize they could get along with each other.

To be a little more accurate, Del Rio's Asher is ready for that from the get-go, playing an eternally buoyant goofball of a man who's somehow managed to skate through life. Méndez's Renato, on the other hand, is all business and wants nothing to do with his half-sibling or their shared father (Juan Pablo Espinosa) who ended up not being anywhere in the running for best dad of the year.

But upon the insistence of his fiancée (Pia Watson), Renato flies from Mexico to Chicago to see Flavio one last time -- and the first time in years since the man seemingly abandoned his boy long ago by deciding to stay in America after going there for work, thus traumatizing young Renato (Ian Inigo) and his mother (Bianca Marroquin).

Renato is ready to head back when he learns that their father left them a riddle of sorts to solve that must occur, natch, on a road trip. I didn't completely buy into the character going along with that -- after all, he's getting married in a few days and is oozing with animosity toward anything related to his dad -- but Greenfield needs to get them in the car together for the flick to work, so I'll cut him and the film some slack.

The hijinks are then supposed to ensue -- Renato waking up to gunfire as Asher steals a goat from some gun-toting farmers not happy with the theft, run-ins with other locals who don't take kindly to the goofy guy with the goat, etc. -- and those range from misfires to some hitting their marks well enough that you don't mind so much going along for the ride.

But the payoff comes at the -- predictable -- conclusion where we learn all about dear old dad and why he did what he did, all as the stick in the mud man comes to like and even love his brother. There are some nice emotional moments to be found in that late in the game material, although I can easily see some viewers gagging from what they'd view as the mandatory sentimentality and the overall scenario that likewise feels forced.

Much like the long-standing tradition of pairing conflicting characters in these sorts of films, I likewise had conflicting feelings about the movie. Some parts irritated me and felt too contrived, but others tugged enough on the old heartstrings enough to forgive -- to some degree -- those issues and related misgivings. So, I'll just split it down the middle and give "Half Brothers" a 5 out of 10 score.




Reviewed November 28, 2020 / Posted December 4, 2020


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