July 24, 2008

300 Words About: Step Brothers

Grown men fighting like little children. The most symbolic movie of the year?

How is Judd Apatow not a recognizable name yet? We only ever hear, "From the guy who brought you...", as if it's not obvious enough when we see the cast. So, from the guy who "brought" us Anchorman, Kicking & Screaming, The 40 Year-Old Virgin, Talladega Nights, Knocked Up, Superbad, Walk Hard, Drillbit Taylor, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, You Don't Mess With the Zohan, and Pineapple Express, (breathe) comes Step Brothers.

There's little to discuss as relates to the plot of Step Brothers: Ferrell and Reilly are middle-aged children living at home with single parents (Mary Steenburgen and Richard Jenkins, respectively) who meet and get married. Now reluctant stepbrothers, the two men wrestle, hurl objects, and scream obscenities at each other for 95 minutes, stopping only to put on a different vintage 80's shirt at every opportunity.

A disclaimer, beforehand: 1.) My expectations for movies "brought to us" by Apatow was as low as ever, regardless of the specifics of his involvement; 2.) I didn't think John C. Reilly's full-blown commitment to comedy since 2005 was a good thing; and 3.) fresh off the heels of the terrible Semi-Pro, I still believed Will Ferrell could do no wrong.

All three of those facts remained true after Step Brothers. I thought Ferrell was hilarious, I thought Reilly was horrible, and I think the Apatow brand is a sham. Moreover, I'm concerned that the whole crew has become lazy, and that this is all we can expect going forward. The writing is uninspired (e.g., a repetitive sleepwalking gag) and there's way too much reliance on physical comedy. Also, it should say something when Jenkins steals every scene from the two leads.
It would be one thing if Ferrell and Reilly were playing immature adults. We've seen that before and it can work. But here, they're actually playing immature children.

What happened to the wicked wit of Anchorman (Ferrell and Adam McKay wrote both movies, along with Talladega Nights)? Even though the plot of Anchorman was just as inane, it was more than saved by hilarious characters and well-developed jokes, and remains one of my favorite comedies. The formula in Step Brothers, unfortunately, seems to be one part character, two parts slapstick, three parts obscenities, a measure of potty humor and (Apatow's contribution I'm sure) a dash of male genitalia.

I know I'll sound like a snob, but is this really acceptable as the best work by America's comic geniuses? It's no wonder the funniest movie of the year so far has come from France.


  1. Is it wrong that I am not even interested in this one little bit?

  2. This is exactly the kind of movie that I HATE---and for precisely the reasons you voceriferate on here. And I appreciate that you didn't mince words here--another excellent entry in your famed 300
    series. By the way, I am sorry to say that I missed that French comedy you promoted, so I am looking forward to the DVD.

  3. I'm with Mr. Plowman. Not interested at all. I'd rather watch The Promotion.

    That being said, the casting of the parents might inspire a DVD rental. Richard Jenkins is fantastic and for some reason, I still find Mary Steenburgen pretty attractive.


  4. Oh, also, I had a chance to go see OSS 117 and I opted to stay at home that day. Big mistake. I've heard nothing but good things ever since.

  5. Wow, 0/3 on this one. I know it's not everybody's style, but I thought this duo would have a bigger following.

    Of course, you all have a sophisticated sense of humor, and a prosthetic scrotum probably doesn't send you rolling down the aisle in a fit of laughter.

    Just watch the trailer again instead, Nick. What's funny for 1 minute isn't necessarily funny for 90 minutes.

    My "famed" 300 words? Haha, too much, Sam! But thanks. I encourage both you and Scott to check out OSS 117. It's smarter comedy, and even though it's not perfect, it still demonstrates a lot more effort than went into Step Brothers.

    I won't lie, Scott, I'd probably watch it if it was on TV just to get my Farrell fix in. And Jenkins and Steenburgen do well in their limited roles.

    I actually heard The Promotion was really bad - no?

  6. First, I wouldn't say The Promotion was really bad, I just wouldn't say it was very good, and it barely qualifies as a comedy.

    Count me in on passing this. Maybe if we get desperate, but I doubt it.

    Good call on Reilly's all-comedy all the time career turn. I'm one of the few that really enjoyed Walk Hard, and Talladega Nights was good fun, but it's really not his strong suit, and he really shouldn't turn to it exclusively.

  7. Hold out for Pineapple Express, Daniel.

  8. Unfortunately, k, I've already seen Pineapple, and it doesn't impress. Everything's in the trailer.

    You made me take a closer look at my claim, Fletch:

    John C. Reilly, prior to 2005:
    Casualties of War
    Days of Thunder
    What's Eating Gilbert Grape
    The River Wild
    Boogie Nights
    The Thin Red Line
    For Love of the Game
    The Perfect Storm
    The Anniversary Party
    The Good Girl
    Gangs of New York
    The Hours
    The Aviator

    Pretty impressive.

    John C. Reilly, since 2005:
    A Prairie Home Companion (I actually never saw it)
    Talladega Nights
    Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny
    Year of the Dog
    Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story
    The Promotion
    Step Brothers

    Case closed.

  9. Astute thoughts here, Daniel. I like how you've had more of these "300 Words" posts lately.

    I think it's interesting that you and I had different reactions to a few things. I kind of liked the sleepwalking bit, and I found (most of) the physical comedy quite funny. I will agree that the writing was completely uninspired, with obscenity laced shouting matches being the go-to scene. And I thought Jenkins was slumming, and every time he cussed himself it completely took me out of the film.

    Overall, though, I think we see eye to eye on the fact that this is a steaming pile and not much else.

  10. I thought it was middling Ferell, and I have a soft spot for Reilly. I liked Jenkins and Steenburgen. It's consistently irritating, though.

    I hate it when K posts. Everyone probably erroneously thinks it's me. :)

  11. "for some reason, I still find Mary Steenburgen pretty attractive."

    She looks great.

  12. I'm with Nick--I just have no interest in this at all, none whatsoever. Good review, Dan.

  13. Thanks, Evan. It's clear that the more movies I see and more reviews I write, the easier it is to free flow like this with my like/love/dislike/hate crutch. Not that that's not fun to do sometimes, but I appear to be moving away from it...of course, never mind the word count...

    Glad you speak for a consensus here that this was a disappointing affair. The sleepwalking did not work for me after the first incident, but it wasn't the worst part or anything. I actually think the fight shown above was one of the lowest points, next to the grave digging.

    No no, KB - we know who's "k" and who's "k. bowen". We just don't know what your actual names are, hehe. Anyway, as much as I like Reilly as an actor, I just feel like he's wasting his talents with these roles.

    Not worth a trip, Alexander. You can find all the best clips on YouTube in the future, if necessary.


Related Posts with Thumbnails