‘Brother Nature’ Is a Welcome Throwback to the Other Kind of John Hughes Comedy


Brother Nature amiably evokes John Hughes’s mid-period comedies about grown-ups, which offered minimalist plots that served to accentuate the performances of actors he liked — films like Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, Uncle Buck, and The Great Outdoors.

In those films, slobby, big-hearted Oscars and shirt-tucked Felixes took turns antagonizing and being antagonized, and finally reconciling in warm, family-affirming conclusions. Modest hits, they eventually became basic-cable staples thanks to predigested stories, mildly schmaltzy emotional beats, and casts of seasoned pros.

In the like-minded Brother Nature, Roger (Taran Killam), an uptight political aide on the verge of announcing his own congressional campaign, travels to visit his girlfriend’s (Gillian Jacobs) family at their lake house with the goal of proposing marriage over the weekend. There, he meets his future brother-in-law, Todd (Bobby Moynihan), a gigantically extroverted full-time camp counselor with a huge heart and impulse-control problems. Todd instantly embraces Roger as a “brother,” which involves a lot of uncomfortable boundary crossing, boogie boarding, proposal hijacking, and televised public humiliation.

Directors Matt Villines and Oz Rodriguez populate the film with a tremendous cast, including Kumail Nanjiani, Rita Wilson, Kenan Thompson, and Bill Pullman. Killam and Moynihan play to their strengths — Killam lends self-awareness, humor, and flexibility to Roger, a character who’s way less gregarious than his new family and who could have been played as a fathoms-deep stick-in-the-mud. And Todd is a grubby off-road vehicle for Moynihan’s naturally gargantuan personality and pops of childlike excitement.

There’s nothing new in the friction between these characters, but it’s fun to watch a couple of pros showboating on the field, even when the stakes aren’t high.

Brother Nature

Directed by Matt Villines and Oz Rodriguez

Insurge Pictures

Opens September 9, Village East Cinema