Writer-director Cameron Labine seems to want to prove the obsolescence of the lovable-slacker stereotype even as he flogs it for entertainment value.
Tyler Labine’s Topher is one of two major characters in the fraternal comedy Mountain Men, but Topher does 99 percent of the work. He first concocts a detailed fib to lure his unsuspecting brother Cooper (Chace Crawford), recently in from the city, to the family’s remote cabin. Later, after Cooper blindly wanders into the snowy night under the influence of drug-laced cookies, Toph literally drags his brother’s body, sweating and grunting, through miles of cold, craggy wilderness.
What’s weird about this: Topher is the hirsute, pot-smoking, unambitious schlub to Crawford’s highfalutin city boy, and he frequently puts himself down while doing all this heavy lifting. Cameron and Tyler Labine are real-life brothers, and the script channels observations about family and societal expectations through the conventions of the road movie, the buddy comedy, and the various meanings of “camping trip.” Eventually, lighthearted comedy gives way to a more serious survival tale — presumably to allow Topher to prove his mettle. The conflict continues to rest heavily on their contrasting types, which both actors have experience playing on television: Labine on ill-fated comedies for almost every major network and Crawford as pampered high school dreamboat Nate Archibald on Gossip Girl. Cooper, a roundly admired yet professionally frustrated golden boy, may as well be Nate 2.0. He spends the first half of the film looking aloof, the rest groaning in pain; meanwhile, Labine’s Topher gets all the laughs — and the sympathy.
There are a few funny moments — notably, a quick cut from the brothers, plotting to thaw out their car battery, to a raging conflagration. But though Topher forges ahead bravely, it’s all too clear that he’s headed toward an underwhelming conclusion.
Written and directed by Cameron Labine
Opens January 29, Village East Cinema