I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER
(Ireland/UK - 2016)
(Denmark/France/Sweden - 2016)
(US - 2016)
STATEN ISLAND SUMMER, BROTHER NATURE has former SNL cast member Taran Killam (a veteran who abruptly departed the show prior to the current season) as Roger Fellner, the uptight, control-freak Chief of Staff to beloved Seattle congressman Frank McLaren (Giancarlo Esposito). When McLaren announces his intention to retire from politics, he tells Roger that he wants him to run for his seat. But first, Roger is off on vacation at a remote lake with his girlfriend Gwen (Gillian Jacobs) and her wacky, vulgar family. Roger intends to propose on the trip, but can't find any alone time thanks to Todd Dotchman (Bobby Moynihan), the loud, obnoxious boyfriend of Gwen's sister Margie (Sarah Burns). Growing up as the baby of the family with six older lesbian sisters, Todd is desperate for male bonding and comes on a little too strong, but with one mishap after another, Roger manages to alienate the entire family. He causes skunks to spray a cabin, rendering it uninhabitable; he high-fives Gwen's nephew who has a splinter in his palm; he walks in on Gwen's parents (Bill Pullman, Rita Wilson) having sex; he eats some pot-laced potato chips that Todd bought for the sisters' sciatica-suffering grandmother; he gets covered in ants and bitten all over after Todd uses Coke to clean up spilled ice cream near where Roger is sleeping; and he gets preoccupied with work when word leaks of McLaren's retirement and is forced to announce his candidacy live from the lake while covered in ant bites, which of course Todd intrudes upon and becomes a media sensation even though a humiliated Roger feels his career is ruined.
There's definitely a GREAT OUTDOORS and WHAT ABOUT BOB? influence on BROTHER NATURE, especially in the way Killam's increasingly shrieking performance draws from Richard Dreyfuss' masterful raging in WHAT ABOUT BOB? BROTHER NATURE means well, but it's simply not very funny, with the script by Killam and current SNL writer/cast member Mikey Day (the guy behind "David S. Pumpkins") just too formulaic and filled with too many gags that land with a thud. Few of Roger's mishaps are amusing, and a little of Todd--with Moynihan in total Belushi/Blutarsky mode--goes a long way. Of course Todd is the main reason Roger's life falls apart, but everyone loves Todd and blames Roger, even though Todd a) accidentally throws the engagement ring into the lake, and b) usurps all the attention by proposing to Margie before Roger has a chance to propose to Gwen. We saw all of this in WHAT ABOUT BOB? so Killam and Day add other jokes that go nowhere, like Gwen's mom using the term "nut" but not knowing it means "to ejaculate," and Pullman's character telling a heartwarming story about being hospitalized for shoulder surgery and getting a handjob from his wife. A running gag about the Spin Doctors' hit "Two Princes" plays as lazy '90s nostalgia that leaves no doubt that you're getting a cameo by the band. There are a couple of funny bits--Todd grew up in Reno and can only sleep with a white noise machine programmed with casino sounds, and the ultimate fate of the beloved Gill the Fish is an absurdly over-the-top grossout gag that works (regular SNL viewers will be reminded of last season's "Farewell Mr. Bunting" filmed piece)--but two solid jokes can't carry an otherwise painfully unfunny 97 minutes. Even with ringers like Rachael Harris and WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER mastermind David Wain, along with SNL cast members Day, Kenan Thompson, and Aidy Bryant in supporting roles, BROTHER NATURE just whiffs too much to be even remotely successful. The film was directed by Matt Villines and Oz Rodriguez, the "Matt and Oz" team behind the SNL commercials and filmed bits. Sadly, Villines died in July 2016 at just 39 after a two-year battle with kidney cancer, two months before Paramount dumped this on 17 screens and VOD with no publicity at all. (R, 97 mins)