Movie News & Reviews

McKay/Ferrell fans should enjoy 'Step Brothers'

In the spirit of Step Brothers, the latest comedy about theever-hilarious adventures of the emotionally stunted American male, Iirresponsibly finished this review a whole day later than I shouldhave.

How did that feel, you ask? It felt awesome! Instead of working, Iwatched Face/Off while lying on the floor, then smashed a lemonmeringue pie in my roommate's pillowcase. That part I did regret,because if you think about it you only get the chance to eat meringuetwo or three times a year, but the upside to being an idiotmanchild is regret is like a shooting star: it fades before you knowit's there.

Besides, just because a pie's stuffed in a pillowcase doesn't mean youhave to let it go to waste. That's why God gave us two hands.

In the no-less-absurd world of Step Brothers, late middle-agedRichard Jenkins and Mary Steenburgen's romance is a lightning strike:they meet at a medical conference and are married within seconds ofscreen time, making plans to retire and sail the world on Jenkins'boat.

Complicating these plans, however, is the fact they each have alive-at-home son. Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly might be 39 and 40,but they act 13, and their tantrums about their new livingarrangements and their hatred for each other begins to strain theirparents' young marriage.

Jenkins' ultimatum: one month to get a job and get out on their own.Even when Ferrell and Reilly bond after Reilly punches out Ferrell'sarrogant brother Adam Scott, they've got a long ways to go beforethey're ready to meet the world.

Step Brother's plot is more of a formality than what you'd calla gripping narrative. The real draw, no surprise, is Ferrell andReilly, whose obscene, violent, absurdist behavior is also really,really funny. Delivered with total conviction, their adult-sizedchildishness draws laughs when lesser mortals would be falling intoobnoxiousness.

What it doesn't have is much in the way of depth. I know, I know,complaining about shallowness in a comedy is like getting upset whenyour dog can't play a competitive game of checkers. (But damn it,Buster will learn. I paid $40 for that dog. Do you know howmany games that would buy me with the Jadwin St. hookers? Three. Four,if I provide the board.)

Thing is, though, Step Brothers bears the Apatow Productionsseal of approval, which has come to mean a) a waggling parade of dickjokes but also b) a strong and sincere emotional layer.

That's missing here. (The emotional stuff, not the dick jokes. Oncemore Hollywood has given the world what it demands: naked testiclesrubbed on a drum set.) Ferrell and Reilly are caricatures, giving themall kinds of room to be shoutily hilarious and little space to makeany connection as people.

Written by Ferrell and Adam McKay, who also directed, StepBrothers never reaches the same deliriously silly heights as theirwork on Anchorman and Talladega Nights. If you thinkchaotic violence and apoplectic swearing is funny — and if you don't, Idon't want to know you — it's going to be some steady entertainment.

Still, when you know everyone involved is capable of more, it's hardnot to feel a little let down.

Grade: B-