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“Mother Father Sister Brother Frank” is an endlessly entertaining old-school farce with a healthy dose of blood and nonstop laughs.

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Mother Father Sister Brother Frank is one of the zaniest, funniest, irresistibly charming films you’ll likely see in some time. I didn’t know what to expect when I sat down to watch it, but it floored me in the best possible way.

It begins inauspiciously.

We’ve arrived in the middle of another typical, somewhat strained, Jennings family dinner — a weekly tradition the family’s matriarch, Joy (Mindy Cohn; Scooby Doo! Mystery Incorporated, The Facts of Life) insists upon, much to the chagrin of her two adult children, Jolene (Melanie Leishman; Todd and the Book of Pure Evil, Stage Fright) and Jim (Iain Stewart).

Joy does her best to ignore the bad attitudes and snarky comments, filling dead air with constant chit-chat because she wants to spend time with her “precious little babies” whether they like it or not.

Jim is distracted by his phone, Jolene is on a no-alcohol cleanse, and dad Jerry (Enrico Colantoni; Galaxy Quest, Contagion) is guzzling wine like water. He’s upset because he and Joy have a secret, one she refuses to tell the kids despite Jerry’s insistence.

The kids have secrets, too. Their conflict-avoidant gay son is getting a divorce from his husband, Pete (a damn delightful Izad Etemadi; Orphan Black: Echoes), and their anxiety pill-popping daughter is in denial that she almost certainly has a bun in the oven.

Everyone’s on edge, and the tension ramps up gloriously like a pressure cooker, momentarily paused by a knock on the door.

Jerry’s older brother, Frank (Juan Chioran), arrives unexpectedly, and no one is happy to see him. We soon learn why. He’s a despicable human being, a foul-mouthed son-of-a-bitch who berates and ridicules everyone, especially Joy.

It turns out he’s not just unlikeable; he’s actually horrendous.

He’s been blackmailing Jerry and Joy, and now he wants to take everything from them, including their nest egg and their family home. The stressed-out family is suddenly united with a common problem and a common enemy. They each realize independently and simultaneously that there’s only one way out of this bloody mess.

Frank has to die.

The family bonds over shared trauma, but the reality of the very messy situation sets in. Things quickly spiral out of control while these ordinary suburbanites try to figure out how to get away with murder.

Everything that can go wrong does, starting with an inconvenient visit from a neighbor looking for her lost dog (the hilarious Sharron Matthews; Mean Girls, Hairspray), followed by the arrival of Jim’s drunk husband, determined to hash out their marital problems.

And, of course, the po-po shows up (Matthew G. Brown as Officer Truman).

Not a single minute of this fast-paced caper is anything short of side-splittingly funny.

The murder scene where everyone in the family has a hand (whether intentionally or accidentally) in trying to off the nigh unkillable Frank is an absolute riot — a perfectly orchestrated melee of exquisite physical comedy and zany energy, reminiscent of the brilliant Clue or the more recent Bodies Bodies Bodies.

It only gets funnier and more outrageous from there, with intelligently scripted situational comedy and a steady stream of wildly entertaining side characters.

The best part is that, no matter how wacky things get, the core cast of extraordinary actors ensures that the characters remain relatable, sincere, and endearing. This feels like a real, slightly dysfunctional, but deeply loving family.

The authenticity is helped by whip-smart writing, from adorable nicknames to believable banter and bickering.

The cast is uniformly excellent, with Cohn as the brightest star; the way she conveys the tremendous depth of a mother’s love for her children is heartfelt and moving.

A fantastic set design and a great score add to the film’s charm. But the crown jewel is the way it delivers its resonant themes of family and the value of honesty.

Writer-directed Caden Douglas imbues his feature film debut with so much heart, pulling from his personal experiences growing up queer in white-bred suburbia, feeling like he had to hide who he is. Eventually, he learned the value of trusting the ones you love with every part of yourself — trusting them to love and support you, no matter who you are, what you’ve done, or what secrets you’re ashamed to share.

Douglas hopes the film will remind viewers that when we come together in love, we can all kill our “Uncle Franks”— no matter what form they take.

Mother Father Sister Brother Frank is an unexpected gift, a masterful meld of bloody mayhem and comedy gold, and I hope it will find the audience it deserves.

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 5
MOTHER FATHER SISTER BROTHER FRANK had its World Premiere at Panic Fest 2024, where it was screened for this review.

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