This back pain I’ve been experiencing recently is causing me to be lazier than usual. Because I’ve been very lazy today, I felt like choosing a movie to review where it wouldn’t be too much of a challenge to churn one out relatively quickly, and so I selected another comedy. And what less challenging material to go with than a Will Ferrell vehicle? I see some of you already heading towards the exit. (It’s okay, I’ll hopefully see you next week when I have a Will Ferrell-less TBT.) If it’s not yet obvious by some of the reviews of the past, I have this slight chink in my armor where I’ll be thoroughly entertained by the shallowest of comedies. The catch is, they pretty much either need to be a Will Ferrell movie or a Leslie Nielsen slapstick. I’m not comparing the two, but those are two of the best kinds of comedies I will watch when my brain has taken a siesta. So, hooray for Lazy Thursday!
Today’s food for thought: Step Brothers.
Released: July 25, 2008
What an adorable family portrait! Family photos are all the more fun when your children are fully grown 40-year-old men but still live at home. With that and the fact that mom and dad are 50-60-year-old newlyweds, how can these photos be anything less than precious? See how not awkward they all are in that photo?
Will Ferrell selects different clothes from his wardrobe again to get into character in this relentlessly silly premise about two manchilds (menchildren?) who have refused to leave the house, get a good job and not depend upon mommy (Mary Steenburgen) or daddy (Richard Jenkins). When Nancy Huff attends a lecture given by the esteemed Dr. Robert Doback, the two get together and eventually wed, bringing together Nancy’s awkward and stubborn son Brennan (Ferrell) and Robert’s lazy (and stubborn) son Dale (John C. Reilly).
Pairing up Reilly with Ferrell turns this dysfunctional family story into a functional comedy. Admittedly, it does nothing to stray the path of Will Ferrell’s typical schlock so those opposed likely won’t appreciate these two goofs pouring their hearts into making their first day together as a family the most painfully awkward experience possible. On the other side of the fence, those who do will find the stand-offish situation hilarious. Reilly and Ferrell are convincingly childish in this extended SNL bit about four fully-grown adults trying to cope with a new and rather tense reality. Given the chemistry between these two goobers, we demand to know an explanation as to how this happened — how did these two guys end up this way?
Herein lies the movie’s biggest flaw. Without including any history to the present-day narrative, neither Brennan nor Dale seem like people. They’re mere caricatures. If we had some backstory to these guys’ separate lives, the uniting of this. . .non-traditional. . .family would probably be a good deal funnier, and seem more real. What were these guys like as children, one wonders as the grown ups shuffle zombie-like through a dark kitchen, creating one glorious mess as they experience together their individual sleepwalking habits. When they finally do join forces together and become “best friends,” we can’t exactly say we didn’t see that coming from a mile away.
In spite of its elemental message and lazy construction, it’s a fun movie. Mr. Doback one day puts his foot down and provides the two muttonheads an ultimatum to find a job and grow up. Watching the pair “trying” to get their shit together identifies Step Brothers‘ strengths as another installment in the Ferrell canon. There is a great sequence in which the two go to each other’s interviews together and they fail to rise to each one of these occasions, much to Mr. Doback’s mounting frustration. And then they get their real inspiration: ‘Prestige Worldwide.’ Putting both their dimly-lit lightbulb ideas together, Brennan and Dale pitch a business opportunity one evening to Brennan’s obnoxious younger brother, Derek (Adam Scott). This moment indeed becomes another one to add to the growing list of ways in which these two have humiliated themselves.
In attempting to really sell themselves for once, the two concoct the genius idea to shoot a music/rap video on board Mr. Doback’s prized sailboat, and the video not only is mocked by the entire congregation, it ends in disaster when they take the boat into the rocky shore. The boat meant more to the man than his son even did, so naturally, the film takes a turn to negative town at this moment. A non-too-subtle wind of change beckons act three when we see Dale and Brennan now out on their own in the real world since, over time, things continued to fall apart personally between the Dobacks and the Huffs. An incident at Christmas one year proved to be the final nail in the coffee between Robert and Nancy, and since then the boys have had no choice but to move out. Plus, they’re not speaking to each other at this point. You know, the usual growing pains.
Step Brothers wraps up nicely, however. The Catalina Wine Mixer scene redeems a lot of the film’s relative lackluster bits and pieces. The last impressions of the film are not only shots of a beautiful location, they’re also quite funny and bring about a satisfactory, if not contrived, end to the whole affair. The scene is also responsible for the classic duet performed by Dale and Brennan on stage when the Mixer experiences technical difficulties with the music. As well, the reuniting of the Dobacks with the Huffs is not only comical and awkward, it’s more than expected. And necessary. The movie could end no other way.
Recommendation: Though Adam McKay has done better, the faithful have found this one a satisfactory tread-water comedy with his go-to-comedian Will Ferrell with the nice addition of John C. Reilly. Reilly might actually be the best thing about this, as his comedic appeal was never very obvious until this performance. He’s since shown an impressive range, with his capacity to be a goofball quite evident here. For anyone else who doesn’t buy into this brand of comedy, though, this script would probably make for great toilet paper.
Running Time: 98 mins.
Quoted: “Robert better not get in my face, ’cause I’ll drop that motherf**ker.”
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Photo credits: http://www.imdb.com