You tend to have strange experiences at Fantastic Fest. This year, I did a lot of strange things, but nothing stranger than watching a film called Bros Before Hos seated next to legendary film critic and historian Leonard Maltin, with whom I served on the comedy features jury. This is a movie where a stripper shoots confetti out of her vagina, and where mentally handicapped people - played by non-handicapped actors - re-enact the entirety of First Blood in a Sweded stage production. It’s extremely stupid, and offensive to anyone with even a modicum of taste. Luckily, I have no taste, so I found this thing absolutely hilarious.
Directors Steffen Haars and Flip van der Kuil are Fantastic Fest favourites from way back. Their previous films New Kids Turbo and New Kids Nitro won Best Comedy Director and Feature, respectively, and their caustic, lowbrow sense of humour has won over many a Fantastic audience. Bros Before Hos continues their streak of dumb, fearless comedy while infusing it with a more mature and even sweet romantic comedy storyline.
Brothers Max and Jules, raised by their fuckup father to avoid any and all relationships, live hedonistic lives of hitting and quitting. Working at a video store and a supermarket respectively, their slacker days are mirrored by their pickup-artist nights, as they fabricate elaborate lies in order to get laid. Although their pact brings them night after night of enjoyable, no-strings fucking, the brothers lack direction in their lives - a fact of which Max, at least, is acutely aware. So when the kind, down-to-earth Anna enters his video store to rent porn for her mentally handicapped brother, Max falls for her immediately. But Jules has his sights on her as well, creating ripples of discord amongst all involved.
Haars and van der Kuil have a unique, deft touch with comedy. They’re great at presenting pathetic characters who desperately want to think they’re cool, and who somehow get themselves into ridiculous, gross physical situations. A dusting of improv fills the movie with little microjokes that nestle amongst and amplify the larger, scripted ones. These jokes come at a rapid pace and with razor-sharp timing, the comedy rising and falling according to the audience’s physical ability to laugh more. Whether it’s a sublimely dumb physical gag or a deadpan line delivery, Bros Before Hos is goddamn funny, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.
But what sets Bros Before Hos apart from the duo’s previous films is that despite its title, it’s actually a sweet story about relationships and growing up at heart. The setup - a pair of brothers who vow never to settle down - is an obvious one, but it needs to be in order to cut through the scatalogical comedy. Ultimately, it boils down to the Manic Pixie Dreamgirl convention - the perfect lady teaching the dumbass man to be better - but against the movie’s grotesque physical shenanigans, the broad romance plays as extremely sweet. It also makes a point of placing characters in relationships that work for them - there’s little artifice in the eventual resolution.
Bros Before Hos is a step towards Apatow-style romantic comedy for its directors that retains the freewheeling comedy anarchy of their prior work. It might not have been the smartest movie at Fantastic Fest this year, but it’s one of the funniest. I’ll watch anything these guys make at this stage - if nothing else, their films are a guaranteed ab workout, thanks to their commitment to pushing the envelope of what’s acceptable in comedy. And when you spend this much time watching movies, you take what exercise you can get.