Nick Kroll, Jenny Slate, Adam Scott. Three funny people who have survived the battlefield of cancelled network comedies to thrive in that area reserved for Seth Rogen's expansive group of associates.Separately they've all done great leading work (Obvious Child, Adult Beginners, Krampus), but the combination is less than the sum of its parts in My Blind Brother, a dark comedy with too warm of a heart to be as ruthless as it should be, especially since the cast is so good at playing nasty elsewhere.
Expanding upon the premise of her 2003 short film, writer/director Sophie Goodhart's story turns guilt and self-pity into values worth celebrating and occasionally laughing at, although there isn't nearly enough of the latter. Scott plays Robbie, a truly inspirational figure and a local hero for accomplishing any number of incredible physical feats. When we meet him he's breezing through a 26-mile solo marathon to the adoration of the townspeople. Why's this a big deal? Because Robbie's blind, and he's set out to prove he can still do everything sighted people can. Totally ignored in this equation is Robbie's brother, Bill (Kroll), who was literally strapped to his side and had to run the entire race, as well. Nobody cares about Bill, though. He's so deep in the shadows he might as well not exist.
Awkward, even though Robbie "isn't so amazing", as Bill's pot-smokin' pal informs him. Robbie's an intolerable narcissist enamored with his own press clippings. But he's at least confident, something Bill definitely isn't, and somehow lures the guilt-ridden Rose into becoming his sorta-girlfriend. How shallow is Robbie? While blind he's still obsessed with how attractive everyone around him is, especially Rose. The love triangle that emerges finds Bill and Rose growing closer to one another, but not necessarily sneaking around since...well, Robbie can't see them anyway. Is it cheating if the other person can't see you? Is it lying if you tell your blind brother his girlfriend is ugly if he won't actually know the difference?
While the charms of the cast go a long way, My Blind Brother never really gets out of neutral. I kept waiting for it to show a bit of edge and really attack such thorny subject matter. Nobody wants to make fun of those with physical disabilities but Goodhart is too soft in tip-toeing around it, preferring to take the film in a predictable rom-com direction. Kroll is as deadpan as ever in his most generically likable role yet, while Slate's pitiable awkwardness is endearing. Meanwhile it's Scott, usually the nice guy in these scenarios, who flourishes at playing a total douche. If only he was allowed to be even douchier. Kroll and Slate's chemistry is spot on, and together they carry the film's lightweight emotional burden through to the predictable finale that the blind could see coming a mile away.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5