I knew The Brothers Solomon bombed at the box office but I wasn't aware how badly it did so until I read Nathin Rabin's My Year of Flops - Will Forte Edition - at the Onion AV Club last week. Rabin cites the website BoxOfficeMojo where it's revealed that the film took in barely over a million internationally. I don't tend to give the mass movie going audience much credit but when a film bombs, and bombs as bad as this one did, there's usually a reason. With The Brothers Solomon, the main reason for its lack of even moderate financial success was, as I see it, two fold... Firstly, there's a lack of recognizable stars (in 2007, Lee Majors would have been the biggest name on roster, and he was in a coma the entire film). Secondly, the stars of the film, SNL's Will Forte and Kristen Wiig, Arrested Development's Will Arnett, and its director Bob Odenkirk were hardly known, except by comedy geeks, and the film, promoted as a Ferrelly Brothers-style film to appeal as broadly to the masses had the comedy geeks turning up their noses.
But the thing is, it's pretty funny. A lot funnier than I was expecting, and I think a lot more amusing than most audiences would expect, although it is a particular style of subtle absurdism that, when not played in a grandiose manner by a Jack Black, Jim Carrey or Will Ferrell, doesn't resonate strongly with the plebs. Forte and Arnett play two brothers, raised and homeschooled in isolation, now living together in a big city trying to find love. When their father slips into a coma, his last words something about having a grandchild, the brothers make it their goal to have themselves a baby so that their father will have something to live for. Of course, this could have played out like a romantic comedy of sorts, with the brothers looking desperately for love, but it takes a different route when Kristen Wiig enters as the surrogate mother (and Chi McBride as her suffering boyfriend) and nurtures the socially inept Brothers into somewhat less socially inept adults.
It is a film constructed out of broad strokes but fills those strokes in with a good sense of character and heart but takes every advantage of exploiting the characters eccentricities for humour, and while I keep using the term "absurd", there's a logic to what these characters do, for these characters. For example, the diaper changing sequence is a particular piece of absurd cinematic gold, but what occurs seem exactly like something these characters would do. There's a well defined relationship between John and Dean, something missing from the comparable (and lesser, in my opinion) Step Brothers, (and I'm not certain of the timing but there's a tangible similarity between the Solomon brothers and the Venture Brothers). Ultimately, when it was over, I kind of wanted to watch it again, perhaps to see if, once over my shock, whether it was as funny as it seems.