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You’ve Seen Bromates Before

Image courtesy Quiver Distribution.

I imagine some theatergoers are going to confuse Bromates with Billy Eichner’s Bros, and if that is the case, they’re going to wind up with the exact opposite of the self-proclaimed “first big studio gay romcom.” Bromates is a 2022 comedy trapped in 2012, complete with tasteless jokes, celebrity cameos, stereotypes, and juvenile humor—some of which lands, and some of which definitely doesn’t. The film’s script is Chris Kemper’s first and director Court Crandall’s second in 19 years (the last time being Old School directed by Todd Phillips, who I still haven’t forgiven for Hangover II [and probably never will]), and it reads like neither of them have kept up to date with pop culture as it exists today. Many of its gags would have fit right in with late 2000s humor, but invoke nothing but cringe in the 2020s. Kemper does a fine job directing and cinematographer Jacob Pinger provides pleasant and admirable visuals, but Bromates suffers from its dated script.

Snoop Dogg, a black man wearing a black beanie hat, circular white shades, and a tan set of a long sleeve shirt and pants with black shoulders, smiling and sitting in his living room. There is a fancy lamp to the left, illuminating the room in a soft golden glow.
The Dogg will see you now. Image courtesy of Quiver Distribution.

The opening twenty-to-thirty minutes read like a fever dream, switching from one bizarre sequence to the next, seemingly following whatever thread came to mind first. Everything is thrown at the wall and even if it doesn’t stick, they still go with it. It comes off like it really wants you to know, “hey, this is a comedy! This is funny!” and attempts to force itself rather than allowing the things that work naturally to take hold, and there are plenty of those that they could have worked with. Oddly enough, it is funniest when it’s at its most childish. It’s attempting to be a comedy about a friend group, and I’m one to know how silly friends are when they interact with each other alone; why, yes, I would say “this place reeks of sadness and musty balls” to my beloved friends. To my disappointment, Bromates often drifts away from these natural quips in favor of unrelated hijinks, which can only carry it so far, and offensive “jokes” that carry it nowhere.

The film does feel earnest in everything it does, but this is a minus as much as it is a plus, because this means it isn’t self-aware when it needs to be. The bits that don’t work are intertwined with the ones that do, prison rape jokes tossed into otherwise perfectly fine sequences. This hints to me that the text doesn’t quite understand what works and what doesn’t. It winds up being one good thing after one bad thing after an okay thing, all conglomerating together in a confused final product. At its best it’s unique and zany (I must admit I wasn’t expecting the redneck festival), though those bests are few and far between. In its self-insistence and lack of awareness, it winds up missing those aspects of itself that provide the most genuine laughs.

Clos (Flula Borg), a white man with very short dark brown hair wearing a fancy robe with intricate gold, white, and dark blue designs, holding two puppets on his hands talking to Sid (Josh Brener), a short white man with short dark brown hair wearing a short-sleeved gingham button-up. He is holding his pet shih-tzu in his left hand.
Flula the puppeteer was pretty funny, I’ll give it to ’em. Image courtesy of Quiver Distribution.

The friend group itself is one of the movie’s other hinderances. There are four of them, but only two get any real development, and even that is haphazard and lacks the attention it needs to make the film’s later attempts at emotional punches land. The second half of the friend group are the gay friend (I mean, hey, at least they cast an actual gay person) and the guy with anger issues, and neither of them venture outside of these single notes for more than maybe a minute. On reflection, the main two don’t really venture outside of a single note very often, either. Sid (Josh Brener) is the nerdy guy and Jonesie (Lil Rel Howery) is the goofball, which is a well-trodden character dynamic that, here, doesn’t have enough nuance to set itself apart from films in the past that have done it better.

Bromates also offers other secondary characters that could have added something refreshing, but doesn’t allow them to stay for the final stretch, or they’re just sort of there as a part of plot threads that do essentially nothing for the film. For one example, Sid’s boss (Rob Riggle), the head of a solar energy company that Sid is very passionate about, has several scenes of himself d**king around in his fancy Silicon Valley-esque headquarters, which could have been fun if it were used as more than an attempt at a quick chuckle with nothing to with the core plot.

As one more example, we have Darlene (Taryn Manning), the redneck beauty queen that Sid develops affections for. It’s unconventional, and she’s an endearing character, and it could’ve turned into something really sweet whether the pair was the endgame couple or not. But, no: Sid is a little too weirded out by her pet ferrets and insane ex-boyfriend to stick around. The ex I understand, but it’s ferrets, dude. Chill. Darlene winds up cast aside as just a part of one of Bromates’ wacky side adventures, leaving me lamenting on what could have been.

Angry Mike (Asif Ali), an Indian man with short black hair, Sid, and Runway Dave (Brendan Scannell), a white man with ginger hair sitting together at a table in a night club, several different drinks in front of them. The room is dark, lit in neon purple, blue, red, and yellow.
Image courtesy of Quiver Distribution

Bromates is a story that’s been told before: guy breaks up with his partner, he’s sad, so his best friends come to help, and it’s a wacky comedy. This by itself isn’t a problem. It doesn’t matter whether or not a story has been told before; what matters is how it’s told. Is it offering something new? If not, does it deliver its rehashes with resonance and care? Bromates does neither of these things (at least not enough), and that’s why it ultimately fails. This isn’t to say it’s worthless, but it is to say there isn’t a lot here to celebrate.

On the bright side, it doesn’t feel like anyone phoned it in. Everyone was believable, no matter how one-note or tired their character was. The genuine moments don’t cease to be genuine while the rest of the film stumbles, and the funny bits stay funny on their own. These elements make the film good for a quick laugh, but it’s still memorable for all the wrong reasons.

Written by Emma Gilbert

Emma Gilbert is a 22-year-old from North Carolina who has had a special interest in horror films since she was 14. She's been writing since she was 10 years old, encouraged by her family and friends all the way. Here, she hopes to entertain and enthrall you with trainwreck analyses and lame humor!

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