Anthony's Film Review

Step Brothers (2008)

The mean-spiritedness of the humor quickly ruins this comedy...

Step Brothers, directed by Adam McKay, is about the kind of adult that nobody wants to deal with and nobody should become: a middle-aged, purposefully unemployed adult mooching off a parent's income. A comedy film that centers on not one but two such people will immediately feel uncomfortable at the beginning, and whether a lot of people will like it depends on how the story is handled. If it's done well, such that the loser characters become admirable to most people soon enough, it can be a good movie. Unfortunately, Step Brothers makes the mistake of having the loser characters mostly be immature throughout, even with a few redeeming moments.

So the two losers that the title refers to are Brennan Huff, played by Will Ferrell, and Dale Doback, played by John C. Reilly. Other than a few minor differences, like musical talents, they are practically two copies of the same older adult who doesn't work, spends all free time at home, and basically acts like a child. They become step brothers when Brennan's mother Nancy, played by Mary Steenburgen, and Dale's father Robert, played by Richard Jenkins, get married not too long after a lustful sexual encounter. The result of this union is that two dysfunctional families become one single dysfunctional family. Oh, and let's not forget Brennan's successful but arrogant realtor brother Derek, played by Adam Scott.

Once Brennan and Dale are under the same roof, sibling rivalry immediately ensues. There is plenty of loud and bitter screaming between the two men. At one point, violence breaks out between them, when Brennan threatens to taint Dale's drum set by rubbing his testicles against it, and then literally does just that. I could imagine that some people might find it painful and unpleasant to watch grown men act exactly like undisciplined little kids. The reactions by Nancy and Robert as they suddenly go from habitual coddlers to parents laying down discipline might be just as unwatchable.

Soon, Robert issues an ultimatum to Brennan and Dale: get a job. But the job interviews they go to are just as nightmarish. Here's how bad it really gets. Brennan and Dale have an interview with a guy played by Seth Rogen in a cameo appearance. The interviewer seems very cool and willing to hire weird people, as long as they're not the weirdest of the weird. It actually looks like Brennan and Dale will get hired, until Dale has a major interview faux pas, involving prolonged unsilenced flatulence. So even in the middle of the movie, there really seems to be no hope for these two guys.

That's not to say the two men don't redeem themselves. They eventually do, using whatever musical talent they have. Even so, it doesn't fully save the movie, because the mean-spirited jokes just stand out so much in comparison. Step Brothers is one of those movies that provides a lesson about how not to create a comedy movie: too much negativity in the humor, with not enough positive aspects to win people's hearts. If this movie had toned down the former and throw in a little more of the latter, it would certainly be better, maybe enough for me to say I like it just a little. But as it is, I have to rate it negatively. Just as Brennan and Dale are the black sheep of a family, the movie Step Brothers is a black sheep among good comedy movies.

Anthony's Rating:

For more information about Step Brothers, visit the Internet Movie Database.


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