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Tyler Labine, left, and Chace Crawford as two brothers living polar (but equally messed up) lives reuniting for their mother’s wedding in the mountain town where they grew up.

Red Eye Media

3 out of 4 stars

Written by
Cameron Labine
Directed by
Cameron Labine
Starring
Tyler Labine, Chace Crawford, Britt Irvin
Country
USA
Language
English

They say opposites attract, but when two brothers living polar (but equally messed up) lives reunite for their mother's wedding in the mountain town where they grew up, the friction is palpable.

Topher (Tyler Labine) is a bearded man-child – still living in his hometown (Revelstoke, B.C.) – and a failed DJ who deals weed for a living. He's the kind of guy who, when presented with his girlfriend's positive pregnancy test, immediately offers to drive her to the abortion clinic – and feels magnanimous for making such a proposal.

Cooper (Chace Crawford) is a smart, slick big-city guy – a New Yorker with a successful career and a girlfriend who rates, on a scale of one to 10, as a 12.

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It's hard to imagine this ridiculously handsome specimen in black sharing any DNA with his schlubby, small town older brother.

But they do, Coop notes, both carry a gene that seems to have messed up all the men in the family. In addition to the brothers' troubles, there is their dead (or is he?) father, lurking (at least metaphorically) in the background. A paranoid recluse, their dad moved long ago to the family's remote mountain cabin. But he has disappeared – gone so long that he is legally being declared deceased. Toph was around to witness his demise; Coop was not.

In fact, even now Coop can only handle a couple of days back home – and has already booked a flight out to his next urban adventure.

While he's around, Toph, desperate for attention and approval from his more successful and worldly brother, has organized a trip for the two of them to the cabin, ostensibly to check out reports of a squatter inhabiting the place. But it's clear that what he's really looking for is some big-time bro-bonding.

What they get instead is a frigid mountain challenge, worthy of the survival shows Coop likes to watch from the safety of the Big Apple. But when it comes to real-life survival in the mountains, it's the boys' dad who will come to their rescue – in the form of a survival manual he prepared, which surfaces in the rustic wooden cabin. His sons are going to need it.

These mountain scenes are gripping, bringing a surprising thriller element to what starts off as a light-hearted buddy flick.

But it's the performances that carry the film: Crawford (best known for his role as Nate Archibald on Gossip Girl) is far more than a pretty face, offering a nuanced portrayal of a together-on-the-outside, tortured-on-the-inside man off his meds.

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And Labine – whose physical characteristics and comedic skills attract inevitable comparisons to Zach Galifianakis and Jack Black – delivers much more than a string of one-liners (hilarious though they often are).

Written and directed by Cameron Labine – Tyler's real-life brother – Mountain Men delivers big heart, some big laughs and authentic character development observed through sharp, but always natural, dialogue. This film, which covers well-trodden territory, could have easily turned into an overly sentimental cliché-fest (the trailer suggests that it might) but it really never does – right down to a surprising, emotional cave-set reconciliation scene toward the film's end.

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