Chemistry fuels road-trip comedy

  • Article by: COLIN COVERT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 28, 2010 - 3:45 PM

Two brothers, one marriage-bound, hit the road and find funny patches along the way.

An insubstantial but pleasant slacker comedy, "Douchebag" takes two feuding adult brothers, sticks them in a car and sends them on a wild goose chase across California.

Sam and Tom (Andrew Dickler and Ben York Jones) are uneasily reunited when Sam's fiancée (Marguerite Moreau) insists on a show of family unity at the wedding. To make Tom feel less like an odd man out, the couple urge him to invite his one true love, a fifth-grade classmate he hasn't seen in years. Groom-to-be Sam jumps at the chance to drive his brother on the search for the girl of Tom's dreams. It soon becomes clear that big brother is coming along not so much to support Tom as to escape the pressure of his impending marriage.

It's a fairly standard odd-couple setup, with bickering siblings discovering that, despite their conflicting natures, they really do like and respect each other. "Douchebag" misses being a formula movie -- narrowly -- because the script and performances make the leads into specific, eccentric individuals whose relationship becomes more interesting as the story noodles along.

The setup favors Sam's viewpoint that Tom is a lazy, pampered phony, sponging off their parents while pretending to be a serious artist. Self-effacing Tom is appalled by Sam's girl-chasing ways, and appalled that such a weedy, insensitive guy could have such a high success rate. Little by little, "Douchebag" redefines their relationship. By the time the film is over 81 minutes later, the dynamic between the two has shifted amusingly.

Writer/director Drake Doremus has created a funny movie where the humor comes from the nature of the characters rather than obvious comic setups. Dickler and Jones have an unforced chemistry, working smoothly together to get laughs without trying to be funny.

Like their performances, the film has an unforced naturalism. Doremus prefers colorful, digressive and silly character-driven vignettes to rigid plotting. This is the kind of film where a pompous, self-professed vegetarian reveals his true personality by tearing into a hamburger when the woman in his life isn't looking. The film, modest in scale and micro-budgeted, feels more like an appetizer than a proper meal, but it's tasty nonetheless.

Colin Covert • 612-673-7186

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