Unable to come to terms with the death of his wife, Santiago attempts to commit suicide. He’s plans are disrupted by his roommate, Laura, and during a casual conversation while he recovers, Santiago discovers that his new landlord, Murray, is a former geneticist who worked in the cloning field. Santiago comes up with a scheme with Murray that could bring his dead wife back to life.
Over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that one of the best ways to make an absurd idea work and to have it stick with an audience is to give it a grounding element. It’s easy enough to make a nonsensical, ridiculous, and needlessly eccentric movie but if you can find a way to incorporate something real into the mix, then you’re going to win over the viewer.
“A Brand New You” has a rather unusual concept — a man decides to deal with his grief by trying to clone his deceased wife. Sure, grief as a plot device is nothing new when it comes to film, but with Kathryn Palmateer and Shawn Whitney tacking on the idea of cloning…well, that’s enough to make you stop and go, “What the hell?”
Naturally, I was expecting nothing less than an offbeat comedy. Actually, I don’t think I was expecting anything because I couldn’t guess where they were going to take the movie or the story with that kind of concept, but I digress. “A Brand New You” did take me by surprise because the movie is more of a earnest story about one-sided relationships than it is about being a comedy with an unusual twist. Which, in the end, was the best thing that the directors could have done.
In hindsight, the idea of a man cloning his wife exists more as a subplot. Sure, the idea gives the movie a lot of room to play in terms of dark and absurd jokes. And there’s also a great deal of humor derived whenever Murray — the drunk landlord and mad-genetic scientist — pops on screen in all of his un-modest glory. Instead the whole concept of cloning gives way to a greater purpose in exploring how a person views their relationship. In this case, the character Santiago believes that he and his wife had the perfect relationship and the perfect marriage, so bringing his wife back to life is the only thing that makes sense. And on this strange journey and getting a woman to give birth to his wife’s clone, he begins to slowly understand he only saw the relationship for what he imagined it to be and not what it was. The movie actually even goes beyond it’s own idea of a person being blinded by grief and reinforces the general idea to be in the moment — be aware of those in your life and see things from other than your own perspective.
“A Brand New You” is rather bitter sweet; it’s a fun and funny movie that’ll leave you entertained more so than anything else but the subject matter is less amusing. To its advantage though, it takes an honest look at relationships and how a person views their relationships when grieving. It’s something real that gives the movie weight and allows the audience to hold onto something instead of spinning off into mindless entertainment or meaningless absurdity. In general relationship-comedies are not the kind of movies I get into easily, but the honesty in “A Brand New You” is what kept this movie glued together and made everything work. Well, that and being able to watch a scene where a blithering drunk mad-scientist mows his lawn while wearing only boots and tighty-whities.