Reel Shorts | Step Brothers

25 07 2008

After sitting through a series of truly wretched comedies, the prospect of checking out “Step Brothers” NEVER crossed my mind. For this painful duty, we turned to our colleague, Brandon Fibbs of the Colorado Springs Gazette to do the dishonors.

“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child,” St. Paul said, “but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

“Step Brothers” is a movie about adults acting like children, by adults acting like children, for adults who like to act like children.

“Step Brothers” reunites Will “Are You Sick of Me Yet?” Ferrell and John C. Reilly, who last teamed up in “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.”

Ferrell is Brennan, an unemployed 39-year-old who still lives at home with his mother, Nancy (Mary Steenburgen). Reilly is Dale, an unemployed 40-year-old who still lives at home with his father, Robert (Richard Jenkins). See a pattern?

Robert meets Nancy. Robert falls in love with Nancy. Robert and Nancy get married. Robert and Nancy’s kids come along when they move in together, forced to share a room.

Stuck in the same state of arrested development, Brennan and Dale initially loathe each other, do everything they can to provoke each other and, when given the slightest provocation, try to smash in each other’s heads with whatever blunt object happens to be nearby.

That is until they find out they are two peas in a pod and are suddenly best friends. If their parents couldn’t stand their bickering and fighting before, they are at their wits’ end dealing with two shockingly immature adolescents in middle-aged men’s bodies who are now inseparable.

As Brennan and Dale’s antics take their toll on their parents’ blossoming relationship, the two boy-men must contemplate the unthinkable: growing up. Ferrell and Reilly are playing essentially the same person. Not only do Brennan and Dale look and talk alike, they share all the same fanboy interests.

This situation, rather than inspiring laughs, glaringly reveals the limitations of the singular personality. Those hoping for a new spin on “The Odd Couple” will be sorely disappointed by this mostly unfunny film populated with several fine actors (Jenkins and Steenburgen) who really ought to know better. Even Reilly, previously a staple of P.T. Anderson (“There Will Be Blood”) films has altered his career trajectory into lowbrow comedy.

Reilly, this is exactly the sort of situation your mother warned you about when she said that you had to be careful about the company you keep.

These days it seems every comedy is engaged in gross-out body humor oneupmanship.

Built upon the lowest common denominator of jokes, these movies, usually staring Adam Sandler, Mike Myers, Rob Schneider or Ferrell, can be counted on to have at least one scene of shocking vulgarity. (There’s no missing it in “Step Brothers'”).

Each movie pushes the envelope just a little bit more. And for what? So we can all glorify in the further infantilization of American comedy?

Being childlike is far from being childish, but a generation of theatergoers isn’t going to know the difference between innocence and ugliness.

These sorts of films both reflect and contribute to our society’s national unsightliness. For actors like Will Ferrell to become popular, audiences have to find his distinct brand of juvenile, infantile, potty humor, funny. And in laughing along, they become complicit in the problem.

Grade: D+




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