Monday, July 5, 2010

"Step Brothers" (2008)

Starring Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly and Mary Steenburgen
Written by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay
Directed by Adam McKay

Will Ferrell reteams with Adam McKay, director of "Anchorman" and "Talladega Nights" for another ridiculous comedy.  This time, Ferrell stars as Brennan Huff, a 39-year-old man-child still living with his mother, Nancy (Mary Steenburgen).  When Nancy falls in love with and marries Robert (Richard Jenkins), she and Brennan move into Robert's home and meet his 40-year-old man-child still living at home, Dale (John C. Reilly).

Dale and Brennan start out hating each other, despite their obvious similarities.  Their rivalry begins to escalate, and eventually begins to take its toll on Nancy and Robert's marriage.  Brennan and Dale, however, finally start to form a friendship when Nancy's other son, Derek (Adam Scott), arrives and proves himself to be a supreme asshole.  Unlike Brennan and Dale, Derek is a successful businessman, and has no problem rubbing that success in anyone's face. 

When their jealousy of Derek's success leads them to destroy Robert's prized boat, Dale and Brennan need to man up and figure out how to save Nancy and Robert's marriage. 

"Step Brothers" is reasonably funny, but can't match the manic absurdity of "Anchorman," or the cleverness of "The Hangover," to compare it to other recent comedies.  In terms of Apatow productions, it also doesn't have the heart of "Knocked Up" or "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," either.  In that respect, "Step Brothers" is a disappointment.  But on its own terms, "Step Brothers" is still loaded with ridiculous lines and gags.  The best parts come from Ferrell and Reilly obviously trying to one-up each other.

The best parts are also in the first half of the film, when Dale and Brennan still hate each other.  Once they become friends, things don't seem to work out quite so well.  And the film's attempt to catch up with a plot and mature the two for the film's climax feels slight.  Personally, I thought the best jokes were the ones that aren't gross - that is, I'd rather watch Ferrell and Reilly threatening each other in bed, being openly hostile at dinner, or wearing tuxedos to job interviews.  A recurring gag of Dale and Brennan sleepwalking is also a riot, since it essentially involves Ferrell and Reilly walking around like zombies and doing whatever ridiculous thing comes to mind, like putting couch pillows in the oven or drinking straight coffee grinds.  The film's most inspired scene takes place midway through the end credits, when Dale and Brennan get revenge on some schoolyard bullies by beating up and entire schoolyard full of children using awkward Kung Fu moves.

Still, Ferrell and Reilly have obvious chemistry together.  Even at the height of their hatred for each other, the two come off like friends riffing on each other.  These are the bits that are easy to get into, where the film is the most watchable.  Steenburgen (who, I'm not gonna lie, looks hotter now than she did 20 years ago) and Jenkins make fine straight men to Reilly and Ferrell's absurdity.  Steenburgen doesn't have too much to do besides look desperate, however.  Adam Scott as Derek is perfectly douchey, and Andrea Savage is spot-on in her bit role as Brennan's therapist-turned-girlfriend.    Special props should also go to Kathryn Hahn, who plays Derek's desperate wife Alice with the kind of insanity this film could use a little more of.

Still, despite missed opportunities, "Step Brothers" is pretty dang funny.