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On DVD: Step Brothers

By Willie Krischke — originally posted August 15, 2008. 

“Step Brothers” is a Will Ferrell movie, starring Will Ferrell. It has Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly in it. I’m telling you this is a Will Ferrell movie because if you’ve seen one Will Ferrell movie, you’ve seen them all, and thus you ought to know by now whether or not you like Will Ferrell movies, and thus you already know whether or not you’re going to like this movie. I don’t think there’s anything I could write to make a Will Ferrell fan hate this movie, not is there anything I can write to make a Will Ferrell hater enjoy it. Now I’ ve written “Will Ferrell” nine times, just to make sure nobody who likes Will Ferrell (ten) misses the point. So there you go.

That said, there are a few other things that might be said about this movie. They may not fall into traditional “movie review” format, but, as I have already shown, a movie like this does not benefit or suffer from a traditional movie review.

1. “Step Brothers” functions as a parody of Judd Apatow movies, most notably “Knocked Up.” But that movie is a parody of twentysomething men who act like adolescents. So this is a parody of a parody. And that phenomenally, catastrophically doesn’t work. And the people who made “Step Brothers” are the same people who made “Knocked Up,” and they seem to know it doesn’t work. Seth Rogen actually appears about halfway through the movie, to spell out why it doesn’t work. Reilly and Ferrell show up for a job interview at a sporting goods store wearing tuxedoes. Rogen thinks the tuxedoes are supposed to be funny, ironic, sarcastic; a commentary on life or jobs, or something. Then John C. Reilly farts. For a really long time. And Rogen thinks maybe the tuxedoes aren’t funny and sarcastic, maybe they’re just stupid and naive. So he tells the “boys” to get lost. Not just out of his store, but out of his entire movie universe, where one can be an overgrown adolescent and still intelligent, sarcastic, and ironic. Because all these boys can do is…fart.

2. John C. Reilly used to have a soul. He used to show up in movies like “The Anniversary Party,” “Gangs of New York,” “Chicago,” and “The Hours,” and regularly steal his scenes – not by overacting, but by underacting. Then he met Will Ferrell. Now he plays an overgrown, idiot man-child in movies like “Talladega Nights,” “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story,” and now this one. Now he plays every scene to the rafters. I’m sure he’s making more money than ever. John C. Reilly, I dub thee Faust. Prove me wrong, I beg you.

3. Probably the funniest, most interesting part of “Step Brothers” is Ferrell’s brother, played by Adam Scott. (Certainly the funniest scene involves his perfect Family of Four™ singing a cappella in the car.) Scott’s performance is sharp and polished, like Reilly’s autographed samurai sword, and I kept wishing he’d show up in more scenes. Scott is much more successful than his older brother; he’s a VP of a helicopter company and rolling in dough. But it becomes apparent that Derek isn’t really any more grown up than Ferrell; he’s just found a socially acceptable, financially lucrative way to act like an adolescent.

4. Which raises a deeper issue. If Ferrell and Reilly can’t grow up, and Scott can’t grow up, and their father Richard Jenkins just spends all his time dreaming about sailing around the world, then where are the grownups? Is “Step Brothers” trying to make a statement about men in our society, or about the way our society treats men and what it expects from them? Do modern males have two choices: either give up and embrace a lifeless, joyless existence, or find a socially acceptable, financially lucrative way to continue to act like a child? Is that why I write movie reviews? I may be stretching to say that “Step Brothers” actually asks these questions –it’s more interested in collapsing bunk beds and licking dog poo – but perhaps you’ll ask them yourself, as I did, when you get bored of the fart jokes.

Recommended

  • if you like Will Ferrell movies.
  • If you ever thought it might be funny to watch a bunk bed collapse on top of a grown man.
  • If fart jokes make you laugh—every time.

Not Recommended

  • if you don’t like Will Ferrell movies.
  • If you’re fed up with your 30 year old underachieving son living in your basement and insisting on “following his dream.”
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