Anchor Bay // 2004 // 96 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Joel Pearce (Retired) // November 3rd, 2006
Victory isn't always measured by the finish line.
Sometimes my wife watches my review discs with me. Partway through My Brother's Keeper, she asked if I'm allowed to fast-forward through parts of the film. Unfortunately, I'm not. I sure would have liked to skim through this overblown stinker, though.
Twins Lou and Eric Woods (Aaron Ashmore, Veronica Mars) are a powerhouse rowing team living in a small steel town on the verge of financial collapse. Rowing is a chance out, especially for the more academically inclined Eric. When Lou is offered a scholarship to the prestigious Oakridge Academy, he refuses to steal his brother's dream and orchestrates the situation so that Eric can go instead. The exciting new life quickly goes to Eric's head, forcing a wedge between the two brothers. Now, they will compete against each other at nationals -- unless they decide that family is the most important thing.
My Brother's Keeper takes place in a strange alternate dimension entirely populated by emotional 12-year-olds. Lou and Eric act like whiny middle school girls. Their coaches act like grade eight bullies. Their friends are inane and obnoxious. The relationship between Eric and Tanya (Mandy Shaffer, Poison) is painfully bad. By the time she broke up with him because he refused to take steroids and become a "real man," my ability to suspend disbelief was strained to the breaking point. When she began sleeping with his new rowing partner, my finger was itching to tickle fast-forward.
Every aspect of the film is painful. Arguments between the two brothers almost worked at times, but not well enough to compensate for the rest of the incompetence. The rowing coaches were ridiculous, the strained scenes with the twins' overly emotional mother were embarrassing to watch, and sequences featuring Lou's loudmouthed buddy Dave are downright painful. Lou narrates the film as well, in equally awkward fashion. Old, tired lines that sound like they were cribbed from feel-good After School Specials come pouring from the characters' mouths. It keeps getting worse, too. What starts out as a charmingly stunted production quickly transforms into a dense spiral of failure.
The filming rivals the script and acting for missed opportunities. Cuts in conversations happen at seemingly random intervals, leaving the most emotional moments feeling jarring and disconnected. The rowing competitions, which should be the high point of the film, are as exciting as a nine-hour portage. No tension is created through the cinematography, which means that we don't care who wins and loses. Not that it matters in a film that's willing to break all the rules of good narrative to make its sickeningly-sweet family-comes-first lesson.
The most shocking thing about My Brother's Keeper is that it won awards at film festivals in Texas and Virginia. Please don't ask me to review any of the losing films that showed at these festivals.
The disc isn't so hot, either. The video transfer is full of comb effects and visual artifacts. The image is not enhanced for widescreen TVs. The sound is a serviceable stereo track.
Despite the unimpressive audio/video presentation, there are a surprising number of extras on the disc. There is a walkthrough of how animatics can be used to storyboard even the most boring sequences. There is also some very confusing footage of a stage production, supposedly connected to My Brother's Keeper, except that it's a musical. It does seem to be about twins that pull a switch though. A music video and some interview footage wrap up the experience. The interview is painful to watch, because producer Jeff Deverett and Jordan Barker have so much passion for this project. Finally, there is screening footage from Twinsburg. At any rate, it seems that twins like the film a lot more than I did.
With so much passion involved, I wish the movie had been better. It may resonate better with identical twins, but I suspect that the heavy-handed approach won't dazzle most twins any more than it did me. Sorry, Jeff and Jordan, but I can't recommend this one to anybody.
My Brother's Keeper is sentenced to life on Sunday afternoon public access networks, where it belongs.
Review content copyright © 2006 Joel Pearce; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Screening Footage
* Music Video
* Original Stage Play Footage