Director: Adam McKay
Starring: Will Ferrell, John C Reilly, Mary Steenburgen, Richard Jenkins
This review from Babubhaut. Step Brothers is out in the UK on 29 August.
I never in my wildest dreams thought I'd ever utter these words about a Will Ferrell vehicle, especially one with Adam McKay as collaborator—besides that Pearl video The Landlord on the internet last year—but here it is. Step Brothers is an absolutely hilarious film. From end to end, I don't remember the last time I've laughed this hard, without stop. This is what Ferrell needs to do, no more of those bio-spoofs of idiots that fall flat due to their tired joke. He is unstoppable as a part of an ensemble when he doesn't have to be the center of attention for an hour and half. The guy is obnoxious, and while funny, the more freedom he gets, the more annoying he is. Having a guy like John C. Reilly to play off of helps rein him in and give the audience a break, allowing the jokes to breath and not become stifled by the monotony of his schtick. Like Old School before it, Ferrell kills in smaller doses. He has shown me that ability again here and whereas I won't even keep Anchorman or Talladega Nights on screen when flipping through the television, I seriously can't wait to revisit this one again.
There is no bloated plot involved or even a love interest to distract from the comedy like the previous two "Everyman" entries in the Ferrell/McKay tag team's canon. I do believe that is the most refreshing aspect here; they finally see that you don't need a contrived romantic bent to be successful, we as an audience don't need to see the schlubby guy get the attractive girl, that is a cliché used way too often. We go to see a film like this to be entertained and to cause us to wet our pants with unstoppable laughter. As a result there are no lulls as even when the two stars begin to see how they must shape up and become adults for once, the awkwardness brings the laughs as well.
Step Brothers isn't winning any Oscars any time soon. With a premise involving the union of two older professionals, both of whom have 40-year old sons still living at home, devoid of responsibility, and lacking serious occupations, what do you really expect? Nancy Huff, (Mary Steenburgen showing that she is still around Hollywood), and Robert Doback, (Richard Jenkins letting his funny side out to complement the wonderful dramatic turn he gave in this year's The Visitor), are in love and perfect for one another. Their sons, unbeknownst to them at first, are also soulmates in the best friend platonic way. Completely the same person, right down to the hiding things in the kitchen while sleepwalking at night, Brennan and Dale are children trapped in adult bodies who waited forty years to be brought together. The chemistry between Ferrell and Reilly is unstoppable on screen, they are having fun, they must be improvising, and truthfully not a second falls flat.
With so many gags, one would think it'd all seem a bit disparate and thrown together, but the filmmakers and stars have sewn everything up nicely. You want a rap video that is the most offensive thing you'll hear all year? Get Brennan and Dale to create a music talent agency. You want an a cappella rendition of Guns N' Roses? Give Brennan a cocky, pompous brother who can afford singing/voice listens for his entire family—absolutely priceless, and Adam Scott kills in this role, "Pow!". You need some gratuitous fake nudity? Give Ferrell a chance to rub his genitalia on Reilly's drumset. Check, check, and check. These guys cover all their bases, not to mention the swearing quota. I am surprised that they approved an R-rating here because it is so vulgar. The fact that a couple lines from the trailer didn't make the final cut shows that the actors must have improvised and done multiple takes of each scene. As a result, I'm sure they all tried to be as creatively crass as they could and to fantastic result. Some of the gems that spew forth ever so naturally are one-liners that will be repeated over and over again.
Really, it is these vulgarities that make the film that much more enjoyable to me. I think that McKay and Ferrell took a page out of the Apatow machine's book realizing a hard-R can and will sell. No one holds back at all, some of the sarcasm even makes the characters cry because it is so harsh. I love this aspect as it plays into the fact that these are 8-year old adults. Their excess of childlike exuberance and simplicity of mind and life—and let's not forget the way their parents react by either screaming and going to the Cheesecake Factory bar or coddling them as only a mother can do—adds to the absurdity of the situation and the laughs. Dale and Brennan fight, bicker, and eventually do everything together because they aren't just stepbrothers, no they are brothers for life in terms of their internal makeup. Think you and your sibling growing up in grade school, multiply that to the nth degree in terms of sex, violence, and language, and maybe you will be able to imagine what's in store for you once you sit down at the theatre. Just don't forget to stay after the first short run of end credits as the best jungle gym park brawl ever is awaiting you. Those kids didn't even have a chance.
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