Step-Brothers – 2008

Director Adam McKay
Screenplay Will Ferrell, Adam McKay
Starring Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Richard Jenkins, Mary Steenburgen, Adam Scott, Kathryn Hahn, Andrea Savage

Step-Brothers is a film I stopped watching the first time through. I put it off for 12 years. Now in quarantine, I have more time to waste. I came across the unrated version and figured it might just be better. It still isn’t what one consider a good film. If we were to compare the career of Ferrell and Reilly together, this is still well below Talladega Nights and just above Holmes & Watson.

When I approached the stopping point last time – where Dale (Reilly) and Alice Huff (Hahn) bust into the Christmas dinner while having sex – I was ready to stop again. It doesn’t get any stupider than sex in front of people not noticing. Well, I suppose porn can get that stupid.

I pushed through the enabling adolescence of two moronic 40+ year olds. I tolerated the sad union of their parents bringing these two under one roof. I sighed as the nutsack actually touched the drum set. I grinned a little when they realized they might be best friends because the lone male they would both consider boffing is John Stamos.

Comedy is hard. This is one of the hardest kind of story to pull off. McKay garnered a ton of praise when he finally moved away from comedies and just made left-wing films that are kind of funny. It’s not unearned praise. He is a good filmmaker.

His work with Ferrell will never be diminished. Anchorman is likely to be atop my list of favorite comedies. It has several similar situations to what we see here in Step-Brothers. Just this time the film is a little too vulgar, with a bit too much willing suspension of disbelief required. Even though the team continued to profit from their alliance and have a startling record overall, the first half of this film is nothing more than trash.

Something happened after the dinner. The film’s blunt nature toned down a bit. We see cracks in the facade of stupid and real characters broke out. It’s nothing genius level, but there are several times where we can take a breath and enjoy the fact that we’re watching two above average comedy actors and a great supporting cast.

There’s almost enough here to make a movie that’s not half bad.

The “throw it against the wall and see what sticks” method is a double edged sword. The alternate versions of the Ron Burgundy films show in abundance what happens here. There is a good reason to only use the best of multiple takes.

There is an appeal to sophomoric behavior. Some, like Mel Brooks and the Farrellys, excel at it. Others just make dumb, vulgar comedies. I would be lying if I said this evaluation isn’t at least partially subjective. It’s one thing to make someone wince, something less to have them too bored to be appalled.

So no one suffers in the eyes of this viewer for having participated in the farcical first half of Step-Brothers. It sucks a little less in the second half. If it had never been made, one’s opinion would not change for Farrell, McKay and Reilly. It’s almost even…

(** out of *****)

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