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Let travels get your goat

Things get weird when I describe why I like the new movie Half Brothers so well. Okay, not so odd when I mention that I take Spanish classes, so I appreciate the chance to listen to the language, which occurs off and on during the film. But perhaps weird when I chuckle at a sideline gag about a kid wearing masks of famous movie serial killers. And especially peculiar when I feel rewarded for finding a story that makes good use of a goat. Hey, I like goats.

None of these elements fit traditional box office traits since no major names headline the project. No buzz comes from festival screenings. Half Brothers faces the challenge of luring an audience willing to set aside usual trappings of mainstream movies for the chance to enjoy a farce that blends traditional expectations with its own distinctive elements.

The story starts in Mexico with director Luke Greenfield demonstrating colorful flair for impressive locations and fast-paced action. The initial emphasis on Spanish dialogue switches to English as the story moves forward in time to the United States, where an unlikely duo discover their titular relationship. Movie fans might instantly spot a resemblance to the Rain Man genre of road pictures, and Half Brothers follows many rules of the genre: a mismatched pair in a distinctive vehicle discovering that journeys often mean more than the destinations.

On that level, Half Brothers proves predictable and sentimental — a reasonable recipe for getting good-hearted laughs in what ultimately turns into a warm and funny family story. Actors Luis Mendez and Conner Del Rio display the right contrast of personality traits that believably bond, as road trippers must ultimately do. But screenwriters let the travelers maintain some edge, partly through the help of a goat who gets no screen credit but effectively follows the John Wayne school of acting. In other words, react rather than act — it all pulls together in a fun piece of whimsey.

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