Killam, who co-wrote the script with Day, plays Roger, an incredibly organized aide for congressman Frank McClaren (Giancarlo Esposito). He's getting ready to propose to his girlfriend, Gwen (Gillian Jacobs), and has it all planned out: head up into the woods for a vacation with Gwen's family, where he can talk to her parents, Jerry and Cathy (Bill Pullman and Rita Wilson), as well as meet her sister Margie (Sarah Burns) and her boyfriend, Todd (Moynihan). The first unexpected wrinkle in his plan is McClaren's unexpected decision to retire rather than running for re-election, opening up a seat that McClaren pushes Roger to run for, a decision he'll have to make over the weekend. The second wrinkle, of course, is Todd.
There are two big pitfalls with the "sweet-hearted nightmare" formula, and Brother Nature dives headlong into both of them as energetically as Todd tries to make friends with Roger. For one, the formula is truly formulaic: one knows from the beginning that the weekend will be an increasingly agonizing situation for Roger that will almost certainly a) give the family a bad impression of him, b) screw up his proposal, c) potentially end his relationship entirely, and d) destroy his chance at McClaren's Congress seat, all before Todd uses his obnoxious magic to make things right again. Worse, there's a fine line between an understandable transgression that may look one way to the family but differently to Roger, and Todd plain being obnoxious. Moynihan, who is frequently funny when used properly (in particular, appearances on "Comedy Bang! Bang!", both the show and the podcast), is simply painful to watch, overstepping every boundary, wrecking everything like clockwork. Not only does the character have no redeeming qualities, but Moynihan fails to come within a mile of a laugh -- at a certain point, I honestly thought the movie would be improved if Roger simply murdered Todd. Todd's eventual transformation from disaster zone to good man is completely arbitrary, and his minor good deeds don't feel like they make up for the legitimate horror of spending time with him.
Paired with Moynihan's oppressive scenery-chewing, Killam is an exercise in polar opposites, a blank void that exists where a character ought to. The movie fails its own premise twice by making Roger an unlikable bore even with Todd around ruining his life; there's something oddly unsympathetic about him. He's not even relatable when a fellow aide, Riggleman (Kumail Nanjiani) arrives and inexplicably views Todd as charming. In the background, Jacobs, Burns, Pullman, Wilson, David Wain, Rachael Harris, "SNL" pals Kenan Thompson and Aidy Bryant, and Sarah Baker are all wasted, executing limp side material that goes nowhere. As directors, Rodriguez and Villines belabor jokes, especially one involving ice cream that feels like a long walk for minimal payoff, and have almost no visual style.
There are exactly two good jokes in the entirety of Brother Nature's 96 minute running time. The first involves a fish, and it's one of the few moments where the movie gets everything right: Roger is arguably more at fault for what ensues than Todd, the conception of the gag is funny in its over-the-top nature, and the direction adds a bit of flair to what is already a spectacular bit of business. (It also helps, for some reason, that the fish puppet looks somewhat disturbing, as if it's unnaturally mutated.) The other comes about 40 minutes later, when Roger and Todd, having patched things up, engage in a bit of playful banter. For one brief shining moment, there's genuine comic chemistry between Killam and Moynihan. Too bad about the rest of the movie.
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