Thursday, March 11, 2010

Archive: 'Step Brothers'

Movie Review
Step Brothers (2008)

Here's a movie that arrives in diapers and only regresses from there. It stars two grown adults who are so out of touch with reality and so juvenile, that they can't help but star in a movie that's in an equal state of mind. And when does Judd Apatow sleep? I mean, he's got "Pineapple Express" coming out pretty soon, too. "Step Brothers" is labeled as a Judd Apatow feature, but it's the first one that doesn't so much feel like an Apatow production (aside from a required Seth Rogen cameo). Maybe it's because the guy really in charge here is director Adam McKay ("Anchorman," "Talladega Nights") who also co-wrote the movie with his buddy Will Ferrell. These two have simply created a mechanism to showcase some comedic chops, ones we've come to know already.

The movie works on the pairing of Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly that was originally formed with "Talladega Nights," and they are, without a doubt, a perfect match for each other. Without this duo's comic chemistry, the movie just simply would not work because, really, there's not much else to it. The two of them play off each other's energy, and a lot of it feels like improv. Many of their scenes together consist of them shouting profanities and beating the crap out of each other with blunt objects. It's funny because it shows that these two actors are smart enough to play people so dumb and somehow pull it off.

Ferrell plays Brennan Huff, 39, who still lives with his divorced mom (Mary Steenburgen), and John C Reilly plays Dale Doback, 40, who still lives with his widowed dad (Richard Jenkins). When the two parents meet and fall for each other, they get married forcing the two families to merge into one. Brennan and Dale immediately hate each other, not for any apparent reason but simply because they're just that stubborn. But soon enough, they become buddies turning out to be even more disastrous. Their parents decide to deal with the situation but soon realize that their sons need to get jobs and move out. The movie chugs along on this running punchline about two adult men who decided to never grow up, and chaos ensues in a shockingly crude, cuss-filled fashion. And it sometimes gets pretty messy.

The movie is extremely random almost to the point of absurdity. It's like Adam McKay has taken the randomness of his past two features and upped it just one notch too many while making it twice as dirty. The movie also feels a lot less polished than his other work. It's crudely funny for parts, yes, but it's also just sometimes downright crude. It's truly a hit-or-miss affair because it's either gut-busting or not so much. There's a sense of raging hostility throughout, and even when it's trying to have a heart, it feels surprisingly harsh and heartless. It's certainly not a feel-good comedy, which is what makes it sometimes hard to laugh along with. It's also shockingly raunchy and decidedly R-rated, and while I'm okay with that, here it sometimes feels unnecessarily so.

It's interesting to watch proficient actors Mary Steenburgen and Richard Jenkins provide some sophistication while still stooping to such an immature level of rude comedy. When Jenkins drops his f-bombs, it feels like unfamiliar territory. The best parts of "Step Brothers" actually come in song. A family in a minivan sings a four-part harmony of "Sweet Child o' Mine" led by Brennan's foul younger brother (Adam Scott), and then at the movie's big finale, Will Ferrell belts out a humorously emotional ballad. And in the credits, too, there's a hilarious brawl with a group of playground kids. Apart from these stand-out moments, the movie's kind of funny, kind of not, and it left me feeling a little unwholesome.

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