A brash, fitfully amusing comedy about the return home of an expatriate Hungarian after 38 years in the U.S., “The Brother From Brooklyn” starts promisingly but doesn’t deliver the punch of director Peter Gardos’ best films. Mild reactions can be expected.
In 1956, at the age of 14, Tamas Gordon fled the Russian invasion of Hungary, taking with him a case of the mumps caught from his younger brother, Laci, and little else. Nearly four decades later, Tamas, now Thomas, returns with his African-American wife, Shirley, cruising the old streets in a rented Cadillac. He’s a success, but he’s unhappy; he’s had no contact with his family over the years, his parents are now dead, and he’s never been able to have a child (the result of those mumps).
After an awful lot of padding, Gardos and screenwriters Zsuzsa Toth and Zsuzsa Biro get to the point: Thomas wants to pay his younger brother (who has a small son and whose wife, Zsuzsa, is heavily pregnant) $ 300,000 to provide him sperm so that Shirley can be impregnated with a genuine Gordon. Laci’s willing to be the father but thinks it would be more fun to make a baby the traditional way, and Shirley seems more than amenable.
There may have been the bones for a bright comedy here, but Gardos lays on the Hungarian angst to the point that smiles are few and far between. By emphasizing guilt and pain, he gives the comedy some substance but robs it of humor.
Peter Haumann is an unconvincing Thomas, whose English remains almost incomprehensible after so many years in Brooklyn. Trula M. Marcus seems lost as Shirley, a character given the scantiest motivation. On the plus side, Janos Ban and Judit Hernadi offer in-depth portrayals of the younger brother and his earth-mother wife, and vet Dezso Garas is amusing in a redundant role as a nosy neighbor.
Gardos includes a few magical moments as Thomas remembers his youth, but overall, his treatment is far too laborious.
Production values are excellent.