After seeing the advertisements for Step Brothers, two immediate thoughts raced into my head. One, thank goodness Will Ferrell wasn’t doing another sports comedy; I don’t think I could have stomached another one so soon after the Semi-Pro debacle. Two, the movie looked so retardedly stupid, it was either going to be brilliant or a fiery catastrophe.
The premise, concocted by Will Ferrell, Adam McKay and John C. Reilly is about as mindless and simplistic as your typical Adam Sandler flick. They threw two 40ish-year old guys with the social skills and mannerisms of spoiled rotten children into random situations and filmed their reactions. Ferrell is Brennan Huff, a complete loser who lives with his mother Nancy (Mary Steenburgen). John C. Reilly is Dale Doback an equally irresponsible guy who mooches off of his father Robert (Richard Jenkins). They’re lives are forever changed when their parents hook up, get married and have the “boys” share a room in the house.
The main reason it works is because Ferrell is at his best when he can just act like a complete asshole without regard for a confining script or without having to worry about carrying the entire weight of a movie on his shoulders (case in point, Old School). In Step Brothers, he doesn’t have to worry about either of those conditions. I’m guessing around 75% of his lines are ad-libbed and a higher percentage of his actions are done spontaneously. He’s obviously extremely comfortable working with co-star John C. Reilly and director Adam McKay (all were involved in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby) and they’re obviously comfortable taking a back seat and letting him do his thing. Hell, you know Will has hit a comfort zone when he buys into rubbing his balls on a drum set or licking dried dog shit for a laugh!
Reilly isn’t a slouch by any stretch of the imagination either. He’s found himself a new niche in which he can be successful in. He’s got better than average comedic timing, but personally I think most of his “charm” comes from the way he looks and sounds. He’s dumpy. He’s got an afro. His face looks like it has been hit with a meat tenderizer one too many times. His voice is tinny and childlike. How can’t those attributes work well in a comedy? Exactly; they can’t not work. And going one step further, here he counteracts Ferrell’s antics perfectly and even upstages him now again.
The downside to Step Brothers lays in the fact that it really is an absolutely ridiculous premise that pretty much plays itself out within the first 30 minutes. How many times can two grown men give each other noogies or throw a temper tantrum before the joke is lost? Apparently there is a time, but when the guys finally decide to grow up, it’s late in the game and the crossover causes the film to nearly grind to a halt. Oh yeah, even as much as I like vulgarity, there were times where even I thought it was being overused (yep, it is used that much).
Overall though, Step Brothers delivers on the promise of infantile humor. It pushes the limits of stupidity further than Dumb and Dumber, but hey, everyone needs a little stupid in their lives. Right?