- Rated R
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All photos © Sony Pictures
Reviewed by David Medsker
tep Brothers” is juvenile, ridiculous, crass and completely batshit crazy…and it is easily the funniest movie Adam McKay has made to date. It has the same ‘throw it against the wall and see if it sticks’ mentality as McKay’s other two movies, “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” and “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby,” but where those movies got by on their stellar supporting casts, “Step Brothers” lives and dies squarely on the shoulders of stars Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly. And both of them step up in a big, big way.
Ferrell is Brennan Huff, an unemployed 39-year-old who lives with his mother Nancy (Mary Steenburgen). Nancy meets cute at a conference with Dr. Robert Doback (Richard Jenkins), and is both shocked and thrilled to discover that Robert has a 40-year-old son named Dale (Reilly) who’s unemployed and lives at home. Nancy and Robert decide to get married, making the spoiled manchildren stepbrothers. Brennan and Dale hate each other at first, but soon form a bond once they realize they have a common enemy in Derek (Adam Scott), Brennan’s insufferably successful younger brother. Derek becomes the least of their worries, though, when Robert and Nancy hatch a plan to retire early, which would force the boys to finally leave the nest and, horrors, get jobs.
On paper, you would think that two grown men acting like petulant children for an entire movie would be grating and obnoxious – and to be honest, there are times when it is just that – but McKay and Ferrell appear to be well aware of that problem and resolve it with a heaping dose of silly. (Both boys have a particular disorder that makes for two very funny scenes.) Where Ron Burgundy and Ricky Bobby were arrogant and dumb, Brennan and Dale are merely naïve and immature, and that distinction makes a huge difference in accepting their characters’ unattractive qualities. It also gives McKay carte blanche to try anything under the sun, including a couple sequences in the final act that are so off the rails that they serve to bring all the zaniness home in grand, preposterous style.
Ferrell and Reilly clearly have great chemistry together, but it was refreshing to see Reilly not play second fiddle to the movie’s “big star” like he did in “Talladega Nights.” The movie doesn’t work if Reilly can’t hold his own against Ferrell, but hold his own he does, and then some. Likewise, Jenkins and Steenburgen (if there’s a hotter 50+ actress in Hollywood not named Helen Mirren, I’d like to meet her) provide invaluable support as the exasperated Robert and Nancy. Scott is far too good at playing the jackass Derek, and Kathryn Hahn scores some big laughs as Derek’s miserably unhappy wife Alice.
It did not bode well that Columbia was marketing “Step Brothers” in a less than aggressive fashion, but perhaps that was because they knew something we didn’t, which was that they were sitting on the funniest movie Ferrell’s done since “Wedding Crashers” (“Old School” if you’re counting lead roles only). Ferrell and Reilly would be wise to work together whenever possible, provided the material is as rich – or insane – as what they had to work with here.
Two-Disc Unrated DVD Review:
DVD of the Year candidate, right here. Disc One alone contains more quality extras than most two-disc releases, with a hilarious Line-o-Rama segment featuring various actors doing several riffs of the same line. There are also several extended, alternate scenes, a gag reel, the “Boats & Hoes” music video in its entirety, and a great making-of featurette. The crown jewel, though is the audio commentary featuring Adam McKay, Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly…scored by Jon Brion. Yep, Brion plays music during the commentary, which quickly morphs into a hilarious improv musical. Disc Two features the job interviews in their entirety (including a cutting-room floor scene with “Office” regular Craig Robinson), along with Ferrell and Reilly’s scenes with their psychologists and some more deleted scenes. Music fans, though, will positively geek out over the scene dedicated to Brion’s score, which features a five-minute jam between Brion and Chris Thile. Rounding out the set are two amusing fake features about a homeless girl sleeping on the set, and a torrid affair on set between Steenburgen and a male cast member. Fantastic stuff across the board.