It’s easy to hate Mr. Brooks for a few obvious reasons, the main reason being that it stars Dane Cook in a completely serious dramatic role, which is admittedly funnier than any of his comedic performances, but is still abysmal and unfortunate. Also, the whole project has that special straight-to-DVD feel that certain movies have. It’s as if they pulled together a focus group and asked them for their five favorite things about thrillers, and then they wrote the script during the ten minute bathroom break. Then they called the focus group back in and one guy was like “but wait, I like this sixth thing about thrillers,” and the coordinator said “not a problem, we’ll just tack it on at the end.” And everyone in the focus group was like “Yay! We’re fucking idiots!” The movie is about as fragmented as the career of its writer/director, Bruce A Evans, who wrote Starman and Stand by Me (great!) but who also wrote Jungle 2 Jungle (um…) and made his directorial debut (and his only other film prior to this) with the Christian Slater vehicle Kuffs. You can say this about Bruce A. Evans: when he wins, he wins pretty big, but when he loses, dude loses. Dude loses so bad.
There are plenty of less obvious reasons to hate Mr. Brooks, too.
The story is basically (not basically) that Mr. Brooks is a successful businessman in Portland who is also a serial killer. His serial-killer alter-ego, Earl, is played by William Hurt (don’t worry about it, it’s the worst.) Mr. Brooks tries not to be a serial killer by going to AA meetings, but that’s not working because YOU CAN’T GO TO AA MEETINGS FOR BEING A SERIAL KILLER. So he kills a couple of people, and Dane Cook photographs him doing it, but instead of turning him into the cops or blackmailing him for money, Dane Cook blackmails him into taking Dane Cook along for a murder. Meanwhile, Mr. Brooks’s daughter has dropped out of college but is being cagey about her reasons, and then it turns out that a friend of hers was murdered down at college and Mr. Brooks is like “Oh no, she’s got the killin’ disease,” and he goes down to her college and kills someone to cover up for his daughter. The end of the movie is a WHIRLWIND of poorly thought out intrigue and double-reversals because ALSO Demi Moore plays a cop who is chasing Mr. Brooks and Mr. Brooks decides that he likes her so he kills her ex-husband because he was extorting her for five million dollars because it’s also an important detail (no it’s not) that Demi Moore is a multi-millionaire who is also a cop, and then Dane Cook tries to kill Mr. Brooks, but Mr. Brooks has it all figured out, and then Mr. Brooks calls Demi Moore and she’s like “where are you, criminal?” and he’s like “smirk smirk” and then Mr. Brooks drops a cellphone off a parking structure and goes back to his family.
The very opening image gives you just a sense of what’s wrong with this movie:
Um, WHO IS MR. BROOKS AND WHAT THIS HUNGER IN HIS BRAIN? I don’t know what you are talking about MOVIE THAT I JUST STARTED WATCHING, so don’t act like we’re friends. And it goes on from there. I’m all for subtlety and allowing the audience to gradually adjust to the world you’ve created for them, but you can’t be subtle and let me figure it out while also beating me over the head with it. Like, I’m willing to accept the five minutes of watching this movie that it took to figure out that no one except Kevin Costner could see William Hurt, but then do you really need to have Kevin Costner say “I go to AA meetings because I’m addicted to killing!” Just like you can’t convince me that Dane Cook’s character is smart just because when someone asks him where he works he says “I’m a mechanical engineer.”
Mr. Brooks, of course, is the world’s most professional killer, and we know this because of his
amazing ridiculous disguises.
“Did you see anyone suspicious at the time of the murder?” “No, officer, just someone on their way to a costume party.” “Oh well. This is an unsolved mystery indeed.”
For as bad as the acting is, you have to cut the actors some slack because the dialogue is so badly constructed. When it’s not leaden and generic (“your daughter can’t do any wrong in your eyes, can she?”), it’s obvious and unimaginative. Take for example this scene in which Mr. Brooks and Dane Cook drive around looking for someone to murder.
Right. Oh man, totally. I hate when people are rude drivers. I just want to kill them. This movie is about me! You should have heard Dane Cook’s rant against weathermen earlier in this scene (seriously): you can’t trust them! Either they say it’s going to be sunny and it rains, or they say it’s going to rain and it’s sunny! LOLZ, right? Someone call Jerry Seinfeld and tell him that he doesn’t need to come to work today, we’ve got all the hilarious and insightful observations we can take right here.
The movie also commits one of my biggest pet peeves, which is the “unnecessary hobby to give characters the appearance of depth and also provide some incredibly convenient plot points” peeve. So, Mr. Brooks is an amateur POTTER. He has a studio where he tells his wife at night that he is going to “test out some glazes” as a perfect alibi for “testing out some murders.” After murders he comes home and burns the evidence in a kiln.
The stupidity of his pottery studio is only out-dummied by the surprisingly convenient moment at the end when Mr. Brooks leads Dane Cook into a cemetery and Dane Cook says “how did you get the keys” and Mr. Brooks says “I own it. ” Sure, he owns a cemetery. Who doesn’t. Besides everyone. Everyone doesn’t own a cemetery.
But perhaps the weirdest moment in this two hour collection of weird moments is this one.
Whoa. I know that the point of this is probably supposed to be that it’s so crazy that Mr. Brooks is a murderer but he’s also pro-life and how deep that is, and what a dramatic conflict, but it’s also FUCKING NUTS. We can also thank this scene for another pro-dialogue moment. “Your father pulled some cliche strings to get you into that unnamed, generic school.” Nicely done. Next time please finish all three days of your Syd Field seminar before turning in your final draft.
The only thing this movie did right was it hit Dane Cook in the face with a shovel.
And then it cut Dane Cook’s throat open with that shovel.
And then it buried Dane Cook in the fucking ground. In interviews, Kevin Costner has suggested that this movie is THE FIRST IN A TRILOGY. I’m going to have to call science, because I don’t know if it’s even possible to KILL YOURSELF THREE TIMES.