Attempts to fill 90 minutes with roughly 30 minutes worth with of material.
If you grew up with a sibling close in age as you there is a good chance you can attest that sibling rivalry is very much a real thing. This competitiveness between family members has been depicted a lot throughout the history of cinema, from award winners The Godfather II and Ordinary People to the more recent Duplass brothers’ The Do Deca Pentathlon. Borrowing several filmmaking techniques from the latter, Awful Nice is an off-kilter comedy about two brothers who get so caught up competing with each other that they completely tune out everything else around them. The film focuses solely on the wild misadventures between these two family members while mostly ignoring logical plot lines, and Awful Nice is an amusing ride as long as you do the same.
It comes as no surprise that the best scene of the film is near the beginning where the two brothers fight while attempting to find an old Alonzo Mourning rookie card, as this scene comes straight out of Todd Sklar’s short film entitled ’92 Skybox Alonzo Mourning Rookie Card. The scene authentically captures what it is like when two adolescent brothers bicker back-and-forth in their room about frivolous matters. But what makes this situation, and other situations like arguing over what hockey posters should be hung on the wall, so amusing is that these two brothers are actually middle-aged men who have never let go of their sibling animosity. However, this scene establishes more than just their childish behavior. Dave (Alex Rennie) and his irrational beliefs are shown when he is convinced the card is worth way more money than it actually is, while his brother Jim (James Pumphrey) is pretty much the polar opposite—a levelheaded college professor who is married and has a child—informing his brother just how much he overestimates the collectables market.
After spending a long time apart from each other, Dave and Jim are reunited after learning of their father’s passing. The fact that the brothers care more about their inheritance than their father’s death reinforces their childlike behavior, but is nonetheless bizarre. At the funeral they discover they were left the family’s lake house in Branson, Missouri—though the place is a dump and needs a lot of fixing up before they can sell it for money. They claim to have good intentions to use this opportunity to bond with each other, though it comes as no surprise that they spend the majority of the time yelling and hitting one another.
Sibling rivalry, in the form of drinking contests and arm wrestling, are common occurrences in Awful Nice and typically end up with punches being thrown. And while the physical comedy that ensues mostly flourishes, it does begin to grow tiresome by the end. Some of the gags in the film linger on screen longer than they really need to and a couple simply fall flat. Although the film really shines in the dialogue department; not because it is terribly insightful, in fact some of it will test your frat boy tolerance, but because the sharp banter between the brothers feels very genuine.
It is nearly impossible to avoid comparisons between Dave’s neurotic character in this to the equally eccentric Charlie Day in It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia—both have wild-card personalities who are not afraid to eat straight out of the garbage or sport American flag attire. But more than just a similar character, Awful Nice employs comparable humor and a storyline that could easily be found in an episode of Always Sunny. While being compared to a popular television show should be considered a compliment, the main problem with the film is that it attempts to fill 90 minutes with roughly 30 minutes worth of material.
Even though the plot is razor thin and some of the punch lines, such as “That’s coming out of your half,” are overused, Awful Nice ends up being mostly amusing. It is diverting to watch reckless characters pop pills, take shots, have run-ins with local police and Russian thugs, and order $90 specialty drinks from a prostitute/waitress. However, Awful Nice is filled with so much erratic slapstick comedy that by the third act the film begins to feel exhausting, making one wonder if sticking to a shorter episodic structure would be better than a single full-length film.