“Half Brothers” could be dubbed “Planes, Games and Automobiles” as the road trip buddy movie from director Luke Greenfield (“Let’s Be Cops”), pairs odd couple Renato (Luis Gerardo Méndez), a successful aviation executive from Mexico, with his newly discovered sibling, American free spirit Asher (Connor Del Rio) as the two hit the road on a scavenger hunt initiated by a father (Juan Pablo Espinosa) who abandoned both of them. The culture clash comedy tries too hard at times, but it is funny while examining the stereotypes perpetuated on both sides of the border.
Luis Gerardo Méndez — a big star in Mexico who has crossed over with roles in “Murder Mystery” and “Charlie’s Angels”— plays Renato, a successful Mexican aviation entrepreneur (who thankfully isn’t running drugs or building a cartel) that becomes reunited with his father Flavio (Juan Pablo Espinosa) who lives in Chicago after abandoning Renato and his mother for a better life in America. He promised to return to his family in Mexico, but the story explains how Flavio got sidetracked and chose to stay in America after fathering a son, Asher, played by Connor Del Rio (“Unfriended: Dark Web”) who is now a free-spirited adult. Yes, he has no job.
The film’s premise is that Flavio is dying and so he wants to apologize to Renato for never returning to Mexico and to introduce him to his half-brother Asher, hoping the two will become friends. Of course, once Renato makes the trip and discovers that he has a sibling he wants nothing to do with his father or Asher, who robbed him of a childhood with a father.
Early in the film, we see that young Renato and his father were best friends. They built toy airplanes and played games together, so when Flavio never returned home after meeting a woman in America, Renato never forgave him. Asher also got the raw end of the stick after Flavio abandoned him as a child because he was different than the other boys. It’s a bonding moment for the two brothers that comes late in the film.
As a last wish, Flavio sends the half-brothers on a scavenger hunt, which explains why he never made it back to Mexico. Yeah, it’s a stretch believing the two would agree to embark on such a journey but for comedic purposes they do and the film becomes an odd couple road trip comedy.
Renato, who resembles a young Jean Reno (seriously, Méndez could take on a remake), plays the straight guy. He’s angry and thinks all Americans are fat while most Americans in the film see Mexico as an entire country of Cancúns where everybody ziplines. Asher is the goofball with good intentions who always has a positive outlook. The brothers attempt to bond while getting into absurd situations that include freeing a goat from a petting zoo and raiding a hillbilly moonshine operation to make Ethanol. The humor at times feels forced and some scenes would have benefitted with a “less is more” approach, but there are some laugh out loud moments in the film followed by a healthy dose of sentimentality.
Usually, a comedy like “Half Brothers” with its predominantly Latin cast would be released in Spanish with English subtitles while playing at a handful of specialty cinemas in the U.S. that carry a few foreign titles. I love the fact that Greenfield is targeting mainstream audiences, not just Hispanics, by releasing a Hollywood buddy comedy that just happens to have a Latinx cast. The film which is a getting a wide release courtesy of Focus Features may try a bit too hard at times, but it delivers a strong message of racial equality by using laughter to show how people pigeonhole an entire race. It may not break down walls, but hopefully “Half Brothers” will topple a few barriers.