TIFF Review: The Brooklyn Brothers Beat the Best

The Brooklyn Brothers Beat the Best (2011, directed Ryan O'Nan)

Alex isn't having the best week of his life. The douchey wannabe rocker he's stuck in a duo with cuts him loose after lecturing Alex on how his lonely indie-folk ballads aren't as autobiographical as his own sub-Ozzy-esque werewolf ditties. He gets fired from his job as a musical moose who sings at schools, after he beats up a special needs student. In self-defense, of course. Oh, and he's still obsessively carrying around the Dear John letter he just received from the love of his life.

What better time to form a new band with Jim, the deranged lunatic who punches him in the park, and go on a cross-country tour while jammed into the front seat of the lunatic's grandpa's barely functioning orange '80s VW Rabbit?

To say the movie is twee wouldn't be to do it justice. Alex's dark acoustic musings get mashed together with Jim's collection of toy instruments to form a sound described in the film as "the Shins meets Sesame Street." Naturally they're a hit (if you define 'hit' as 'barely making enough money to pay for gas and food') and quickly get joined by Cassidy, the tough-exteriored girl who's doing the booking on their first gig and decides on a whim to split Pennsylvania and become their manager. Whimsical shenanigans ensue as the duo spar from coast to coast and Alex and Cassidy start to fall for each other, until things inevitably splinter apart and then pull back together in a heartwarming, quirky finale.

If I sound like I'm shitting all over the movie, I don't mean to. It's relentlessly formula, sure, but there's nothing wrong with formula when it's well done, and Brooklyn Brothers has enough humor and charm to get through it's weaker moments. It also has an ace in the hole: a parade of cameos and supporting performances from a bizarre array of recognizable faces. Wilmer Valderrama, Christopher McDonald, Melissa Leo, and Andrew McCarthy as Alex's resolutely Christian older brother all lend their chops to the production and give it a little necessary pep.

Really, whether you can even tolerate the film or not depends on how well you can handle the music. If you can imagine Jonathan Coulton cutting an album entirely of his more 'serious' numbers, with Fischer-Price sponsoring the tour, you've got some idea of what to expect. If that has you clawing at your ears and running for the hills, give this one a miss. If that sounds kinda cute, then Brooklyn Brothers Beat the Best is the film for you.

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