Step Brothers (7/10)

The latest from the legendary Apatow comedy dynamite team isn’t their best, but thankfully, it’s not their worst either. It doesn’t contain the emotional depth or love-conquers-all message that the others do, and it usually condones and makes fun of immature people rather than stressing the importance of growing up (Knocked Up, the 40-Year Old Virgin, Superbad). However, that’s okay. If you’re willing to look at Step Brothers as little more than a series of skits about these two bumbling immature adults, you’ll probably have a good time.

John C. Reilly is Dale Doback and Will Ferrell is Brennan Huff, two forty-year old shlumps who never left the house and who spend their days munching on junk food at home and getting beat up by school children because they’re such big wusses. Their divorced parents meet and marry, and a storm of chaotic sibling rivalry ensues, soon replaced by brotherly love and a decision to become hard-working adults.

The comedy in Step Brothers is not what’s lacking. Reilly and Ferrell are perfect for each of their parts – some lines that would never work when uttered through the mouth of another actor seem like comedy gold when Ferrell gets a hold of it. “I’m burying you alive,” in a scene wherein he dumps dirt upon a live Dale in a hole in the ground. The sheer ridiculous immaturity of these two adults is so completely unbelievable that there’s no point in trying to find a moral or logic to the script – instead you should just go along for the ride and you’ll probably find yourself having a great time. The lack of a coherent through-story and character arc for each of the brothers could be due to what Adam McKay has spent the last couple years doing – running the “Funny or Die” website that he started with Will Ferrell – a site similar to youtube, except where the sole determination of whether a video is good is whether or not it’s funny. Each of the episodes wherein we see sibling rivalry or bonding would not look out of place as a five minute video on “Funny or Die.”

Because of this style of comedy, it’s difficult to care too much about the characters. Stuff happens to them throughout the movie, but it’s never so much a logical sequence of events as it is random splattering plot points popping up here and there. A short, sweet, moral is tacked on the end, but it doesn’t flow what came before – McKay wants us to laugh at and almost celebrate this duo’s stupidity for a good hour – and then he asks us to turn a mature and judgmental eye on them because they need to do some growing up. This message is even further garbled by scene at the end that smashes all previous logic that existed in the story to bits. (Although the sheer ludicrosity of that scene is refreshing and actually works, considering the unsure tone of the movie.)

As Apatow films have gone along, they have kind of evolved into some other kind of beast where there’s a fine line between making fun of yourself and your own immaturity and condoning it. Step Brothers doesn’t toe that line – it crashes and burns headlong into the condoning side and tries unsuccessfully to cross back over fifteen minutes before the credits roll. In terms of the usual emotional heart and soul Apatow affairs contain, Step Brothers is a dud. But in terms sheer laugh ratio, it’s a winner. Up to you which one you’re in the mood for.


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