Sulky thirteen year old Kathy Caldwell (Scarlett Johansson) is the constant butt of practical jokes played by her bratty little brother, George (Nick Fuoco). She longs to visit Paris but, alas, Mom (Romy Windsor) and Dad (Judge Reinhold) decide to make the trip alone leaving Kathy and George with their live-in nanny, Matilda (Eva Mendes). Uptight Kathy has a real bee in her bonnet about Matilda's tirelessly sweet and forgiving nature. She goads George into trashing Matilda's room. Yet George somehow activates the magic animal-shaped crystals Matilda happens to have with her (?!) and ends up transformed into a pig.
Winner of the award for most contrived set-up for a children's movie in 1999 (not really, but it should have), My Brother the Pig is noteworthy solely because it features an early appearance from two bonafide screen goddesses: Scarlett Johansson and Eva Mendes. Even at a young age Scarlett's charisma and talent are well evident yet whereas the character essayed by Eva Mendes is bubbly and likeable, Kathy's sulky sarcasm wears thin. By all rights our sympathies should lie with Kathy given the early scenes establish everyone from her parents to Matilda appears willing to turn a blind eye to George's destructive behaviour. Yet the flawed script, the sole writing credit for p.a. Matthew Flynn (aside from a Lion King videogame), implies Kathy's own insecurities are the problem and she needs to appreciate George more. Which is fine and dandy as far as force-feeding kids morals go, only George comes across an obnoxious little jerk (the pig is infinitely cuter and more likeable) and the film fails to address any of Kathy's frankly legitimate grievances.
Tonally, My Brother the Pig comes across like a film out of its time, a throwback to the sort of comedies the Disney studio made with Jodie Foster back in the Seventies, right down to the animated opening credits. What minor charm it does have stems largely from the enthusiasm of the principal players, notably Johansson, Mendes and Home Alone 3 (1997) star Alex D. Lintz (as George's geeky best friend, Freud) who invest the would-be wacky antics with much needed gusto. Yet slack direction from Eric Fleming (more active as a reality TV producer on such choice fare as Queer Eye for the Straight Girl, America's Funniest Home Videos, and The Surreal Life) consistently lets the performers down. Things get more interesting when the gang cross the border into Mexico in search of Matilda's witchy grandmother. Tensions between Kathy and Matilda finally erupt, Freud uses Pig George to hustle American tourists, our heroine bonds with a couple of nice Mexican kids who think she resembles Rachel from Friends and, inevitably, George is pig-napped by the local butcher.
Even so, the plot remains wildly undisciplined and the gags would benefit from peppier pacing. It is morality play without a clear sense of what that moral is supposed to be. Stuff happens yet there is shockingly little story never mind subtext. Quite how the filmmakers managed to stretch such a slight story to little over ninety minutes is rather remarkable. Whether fans of Scarlett Johansson and Eva Mendes would chose to watch this or The Spirit (2008) remains a matter of personal taste.