Brotherly Loathe

by Ian T. McFarland on July 25, 2008

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Step Brothers
  • IMDB: link

What is supposed to be a great Summer for comedy is finally starting to live up to its potential.  Sure, we’ve been promised Pineapple Express and Tropic Thunder, but before we get to any of the desert we’ve had to put up with shitty vegetables like You Don’t Mess With the Zohan and Meet Dave.  But finally, the light at the end of the tunnel begins to blind us with the third movie to come out of the Will Ferrell-Adam McKay partnership, the very funny Step Brothers.

After having lived leisurely at home with their parents for all of their forty years, man-children Brennan (Ferrell) and Dale (John C. Reilly)‘s lives are crashed into each other as their single parents marry each other and begin to force the responsibilities of adulthood on the boys, er, men.

Naturally, the two are dragged kicking and screaming into the whole process, which is made even more difficult by their intense hatred for each other.  While trying to fight over the position of the favorite or alpha-male in the new family, they sic insults and threats on each other that sound as though they came out of the mouth of a pissed of eleven-year-old.  But soon enough, realizing that they have so much in common, they not only drop the quarrel but become best friends, and the rest is history.

Like most comedies out there, it’s the acting that makes this film as good as it is.  Reilly, after paying his dues with dramatic roles in Hollywood for 15 years, has become a comedic revelation (he upstaged Ferrell in Talladega Nights).  And Ferrell, who has started to wear thin on his audiences after playing one character over and over again, changes things up enough as Brennan that we aren’t tired of his antics anymore.  Both effortlessly give us overgrown middle-schoolers in a brutal sibling rivalry.  It’s both hilarious and just as endearing as watching any pre-pubescent boys try to act like grown-ups.

Throw a few points director McKay’s way while your at it.  Despite delivering strong comedies with his first two films – Anchorman and Talladega Nights, they lacked any sort of visual punch.  To call Step Brothers’ photography aesthetically pleasing might be too big a compliment than anyone deserves; but it is his first film to look like it deserves to be shown in theaters, rather than only being appropriate for a DTV release.

The comedy never reaches the levels of Ferrell and McKay’s other films.  Partially because those movies were funnier and more quotable, but also because Step Brothers has some problems in its second act.  It’s unorganized, and feels like a few scenes are out of place.  It also suffers from having Richard Jenkins who, despite killing some killer lines, often fails at fitting into McKay’s style of humor.

To Ferrell and McKay’s credit, Anchorman and Talladega Nights have been some of the best comedy fare offered up in recent years.  That Step Brothers doesn’t outdo either of them is nothing to be ashamed of; and that Will Ferrell can still make us laugh, as older comedy superstars like Eddie Murphy, Mike Myers and Adam Sandler have shown us this summer that they cannot, is something to be thankful for.

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