By: Addison Wylie
Is it just me, or does anyone else find this of coupling of comedic actor Tyler Labine and Gossip Girl’s Chace Crawford unusual? I suppose this isn’t any weirder than pairing up Labine with Alan Tudyk (Tucker and Dale vs. Evil) or sending Crawford off to recite puns on FOX’s Family Guy, but just looking at the poster for Mountain Men had me wondering how Cameron Labine’s film would play out.
It turns out Mountain Men is kind of like Phil Lord and Christopher Miller’s 21 Jump Street: the comedic combo works, and the movie is a pleasant surprise. However, the writer/director is willing to gamble it all by turning Mountain Men into a remote tale of survival.
Labine and Crawford play Topher and Cooper, estranged brothers who are brought together when their mother (played by Christine Willes) decides to remarry. Cooper is put off by the marital turnaround, and an ecstatic Topher is both jealous and impressed of his younger brother’s success outside of the family’s humbling community in Revelstoke, British Columbia. When a local tells Topher he saw a squatter occupying the old family cabin, man child Topher persuades Cooper to partner up and evict the stranger themselves.
Scenarios aren’t what they seem to be, transportation is stripped away, ulterior motives are made clear, and suddenly the brothers are trying to navigate back home through snowcapped forestry – trying to measure up to the natural elements around them.
When the film is going for laughs, Mountain Men is a solid comedy that has enough decency to not shortchange the country mouse or the city mouse. Cameron Labine makes sure that Topher and his family are not perceived as unintelligent bumpkins, which I appreciated. The portions of the wedding the audience sees, along with frank conversations between Topher and friends, strengthen Labine’s characterization of a small town DJ and part-time pot dealer. The screenplay thankfully doesn’t interpret the eccentricities of a quaint neighbourhood as targets for punchlines.
Crawford plays a more conventional stiff in this story. However, as Labine displayed with the country backdrop, Crawford’s straight-man routine never devalues itself to obvious fish-out-of-water jokes. Cooper is a truthful character, and we believe the humiliation he feels. And, when Cooper digests some “special” snacks, Crawford’s inebriation is spot-on – he’s almost too convincing.
When Mountain Men gets serious, it’s a startling shift, but the movie is a nail-biter nonetheless. The brothers – who have always seen each other as naive siblings – are now having to deal with each other as adult men, which then raises short-lived topics about masculinity. The viewer is so involved with the action pieces and the open discussion of maturity, that we almost forgive and forget about the conveniences circling around certain available resources.
A semi-qualm I have towards Cameron Labine’s multi-tasking Mountain Men is regarding the film’s language. Topher is tolerant to four-letter curses, and he uses them quite frequently. I can tolerate swearing as well, but the film’s profanity is going to separate it from a wider audience. If Cameron’s script underwent another revision, Mountain Men could’ve been a cleaner counter to last week’s Backcountry.
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