Movie Review: A dog’s farewell leads to a Naked Brothers Band reunion in “Stella’s Last Weekend”

stella1 Acting brothers Alex and Nat Wolff have a cute rapport that made for pretty funny banter on TV’s “The Naked Brothers Band,” back in the day. They pick up right where they left off with a more PG-13 version of their um, antics in Polly Draper’s “Stella’s Last Weekend.”

They’re competing for the same career and same girlfriend, playing hardball at the local arcade, sharing smart-assed banter with their on-screen mom as siblings reunited for their beloved dog’s farewell, a party their mother is throwing for the only dog they ever had growing up. “Something wrong with that, right? Mom celebrating our dog’s death.”

They’re New Yorkers, with older brother Jack (Nat Wolff) in college studying marine biology and younger brother Ollie (Alex Wolff) already over-achieving in the same field in high school. Their reunion includes friendly bickering over “Why’re you in my room?,” and way too many sentences that begin with “Dude.”

“Dude, that’s MY James Brown T-shirt! “No, it’s OUR James Brown t-shirt.!”

Ollie is outgoing, a hyperactive vulgarian, the kind of dude who swaps S-shots with his girlfriend — dropping trou at the flower shot to Snapchat his butt. He’s super-quick with a retort. He’s dating a ballerina and isn’t taking guff from any of the mean girls in the corps de ballet.  “How’s high school, Ollie?” “Fine. How’s In-a-Few-Years-You’ll-Be-Too-Old to Dance School?”

But that ballerina, Violet (Paulina Singer of “The Wilde Wedding”) has history with Jack. Not much. “No big deal,” she says. It’s just that Jack has obsessed about her ever since. So even crashing and trashing a pretentious ballet party has a bittersweet sting as he tags along with the happy couple. Ollie’s mouth knows no filter, and “You are one bats— crazy b—h, Mom” may amuse Mom (writer-director and “thirtysomething” vet Polly Draper), but her chicken franchise-owning boyfriend (Nick Sandow) sees it as just proof that these two “aren’t becoming  men.” To the boys, Ron’s just a “Scoob” with a combover. As we hear them do cutesy alternative character voices, teasing and taunting about everything, from their dog’s death to their father’s (Mom had him “put down,” too is one joke), we can see Ron’s point. stella2.jpg But as they dote on the dog, tugging terminally ill Stella around in a red wagon, dragging Violet along as they trek to town, to Coney Island in the off season; as Mom recites the litany of all the dogs she’s had and how they died,; as Violet faces the dilemma of realizing she might have broken up with Jack under false pretenses, the lads and their young lady friend let go of grating (Alex tries WAY too hard) and fall into charming.

It’s a formulaic dramedy  with a little pathos, some wit, some unusual-in-real-life-but-not so-much-in-rom-coms situations.

But with a several warmly predictable story beats and the occasional twist and a lot of lightly amusing lines, Draper (She was in “The Naked Brothers Band Movie”) and the kids make it come off. “Violet? This is everyone I love…and Ron.” 2half-star6 MPAA Rating: unrated, sexual situations, profanity Cast: Nat Wolff, Alex Wolff, Paulina Singer. Polly Draper Credits: Written and directed by Polly Draper . An Orchard release. Running time: 1:42


About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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