'Mountain Men': Film Review

Courtesy of LEVEL 33
Comic family dynamics and survivalist drama don't mix well.

Chace Crawford and Tyler Labine play brothers trapped in the wilderness in Cameron Labine's family dramedy.

Starting out as a familiar-feeling, dysfunctional family dramedy before it strangely launches into a survivalist drama, Mountain Men never manages to blend its disparate elements into a satisfying whole. Although it has its moments, mostly due to the comic skills of co-star Tyler Labine (brother of the film's writer-director, Cameron Labine), the pic succumbs to formula long before its conclusion.

The central characters are Toph (Labine), a slacker who earns a meager income as a part-time D.J. and low-level pot dealer, and his brother Cooper (Chace Crawford, in a bit of casting suggesting the brothers' gene pool was very deep indeed), a successful big-city lawyer who has returned to his small hometown after many years to attend their mother's wedding.

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Personal issues abound, from their father having been presumed dead after disappearing years earlier in the mountain wilderness; Toph's girlfriend (Britt Irvin) informing him that she's pregnant, with his response being that he'll drive her to the abortion clinic; and the eventual revelation that Cooper has broken up with his girlfriend, who he's described as a "12" on a scale of one-to-10.

Toph, who clearly looks up to his emotionally detached sibling, manages to convince him to embark on a trek to their remote family cabin, supposedly for the purpose of evicting a squatter. The resulting complications are at first comedic, from the cabin's accidentally burning down (a single editing cut earns a big laugh here) and Cooper's accidentally ingesting his brother's pot-laden cookies.

But when the stoned Cooper wanders out into the night and breaks his leg in a fall, the proceedings turn deadly serious, with Toph struggling to keep himself and his immobile brother alive in the punishing wintry conditions.

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None of this feels remotely convincing, despite the occasional amusing and insightful bits of dialogue between the two men that well capture the complexities of sibling relationships. Labine — who's been frequently compared, not unreasonably, to Jack Black — movingly conveys the wastrel Toph's big heart, and Crawford brings a convincing brooding intensity to his very contrasting character. But their efforts, and the gorgeous British Columbia scenery, aren't enough to lift Mountain Men to any heights.

Distributor: Level 33 Entertainment
Production companies: Resonance Film and Video
: Chace Crawford, Tyler Labine, Christine Willes, Ben Cotton, Britt Irvin
Director-screenwriter: Cameron Labine
Producer: Jason James
producers: Emily Alden, Tex Antonucci, Kirk D'Amico, David Valleau
Director of photography: Catherine Lutes
Production designer: Scott Moulton
Editor: Adam Locke-Norton
Costume designer: Barbara Gregusova
Composer: Andrew Harris
Casting: Angela Demo, Kara Eide, Barbara J. McCarthy, Kris Woznesensky

Not rated, 85 minutes


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