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Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

Step Brothers

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Judy Thorburn

"Step Brothers" - Childish, Crude, But Suprisingly Funny

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I truly expected to hate this movie…. for good reason. Ever since Saturday Night Live alumna Will Ferrell hit the big screen I have detested every one of the juvenile, idiotic comedies that featured him as the star. One was worse than the other. Sick of watching Ferrell playing the same kind of lame brain, immature goofball over and over again, I fail to understand what his appeal is. So, it is much to my surprise that I actually found myself laughing on several occasions during the screening of Stepbrothers, this latest comedy release that teams Ferrell once again with his Talledega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby co-star, John C. Reilly.

To begin with, the story has a clever concept based on the fact these days lots of parents are finding themselves stuck with their grownup children still living at home with them. Step brothers, co-written by Ferrell and his Telledega Nights director Adam McCay, who again is at the helm, expounds on that premise and takes it to an outrageous and funny level.

Ferrell and Reilly play the central characters; physically grown, but emotionally and intellectually stunted men who still live at home with their enabling parents. Brennan Huff (Ferrell) is 39 year olds and lives with his pretty, divorced mom Nancy (Mary Steenburgen, looking age-wise more like his sister than mother), and Dale Doback (Reilly) is 40 and living with his widowed, doctor father Robert (Richard Jenkins, a far cry from his dramatic Oscar worthy performance in The Visitor). Both Brennan and Dale are unemployed and seriously immature, having been spoiled and pampered by their parents who treat them like kids. No wonder they act like ten year olds.

But, as luck would have it, both their parents meet, fall in love and marry, which turns their world upside down. When Nancy moves in with her new hubby, along comes Brennan. Instead of forming an instant bond because they have so much in common, the new stepbrothers have an immediate hate for each other, causing some major sibling rivalry to be set in motion. Bickering starts at the dinner table and escalates as death threats before falling asleep in the bedroom they must share. It is a toss which guy is dumber and more infantile, as crazy antics ensue with each trying to outdo the other. When not engaging in verbal insults and arguments they are beating each other up. Never mind, that they share the same penchant for sleepwalking in which they wander around the house and create havoc in the kitchen.

Eventually, Brennan’s overachiever, obnoxious brother Derek (Adam Scott) comes for a visit with his kids and sexually frustrated wife Alice (a hilarious Kathryn Hahn) in tow, adding coal to the fire. Derek tells his step dad, Robert, that he can sell his house, and make enough money to finally live his dream of retiring and traveling the world on his boat. It’s the shared dislike for Derek that brings Brennan and Dale to put their hostility for each other aside and join forces as brothers.

Like all previous Ferrell comedies, besides the usual, goofball behavior, the story entails crude humor, sexually explicit references and tasteless sight gags. Since Judd Apatow is connected to the project as producer, that’s par for the course. Thankfully, compared to Ferrell’s other dreadful, extremely gross comedies this one is a bit more tame. Not that this film doesn’t show some disgusting, vulgar stuff I consider a turnoff. I mean, do we really need to see Ferrell banging the drums with his testicles, or being forced by pre-teen bullies to lick dog poop, to name a few unnecessary visuals.

However, there are some really funny moments, like when their parents are fed up with their destructive behavior that is tearing the family apart, and the boys are forced to look for a job. Clueless, Brennan and Dale arrive as a duo for job interviews dressed in tuxedos and engage in off the wall repartee with their interviewers. Another scene has the big lugs constructing a bunk bed out of hockey sticks. No doubt, it comes tumbling crashing down at just the opportune time, if you know what I mean.

What drives Stepbrothers is Ferrell and Reilly’s great chemistry and wacky, off the wall, interactions. They make a great comedy duo whose facial expressions, verbal sparring and comic timing is always on the mark.

Don’t get me wrong. No way will this comedy make my top ten list at year’s end. The point I am making is Step Brothers isn’t as awful as I had anticipated. Yes, it is stupid, mindless, and as previously stated, often crude. But it’s also more than occasionally funny, a pleasant surprise for someone who isn’t a Will Ferrell fan. As far as I am concerned, for the comedy star, that’s a step in the right direction!