MOVIE REVIEW- Man/boys overboard: Two pea-b rains in a pod
Please pardon the schizophrenia of this review. I'm really tired of the man/boy comedies where guys in their 20s, 30s, even 40s and beyond act infantile; and Step Brothers gives you a double dose of it (I wish I hadn't laughed so much so I could be really critical), with Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly behaving like two immature pea-brains in a pod.
This is no seamless "Brady Bunch" merging of families. Nancy and Brennan move in with Robert and Dale, which Dale resents. The boys are both unemployed, so they have nothing to do but get on each other's nerves. Dale is a little more hotheaded, Brennan a little more anal, but basically they're too similar for the kind of contrast that makes good drama– or comedy. They even both sleepwalk and are inclined to cause mayhem when they do.
For a couple of weeks their bickering and fighting are rough on their newlywed parents; but when they bond, after a visit from Brennan's hated, successful younger brother Derek (Adam Scott), they become even worse.
Robert finally tells them they're going to have to get jobs and even lines up interviews for them (one with a cameoing Seth Rogen), which they proceed to sabotage intentionally. Instead they get the idea they can start an international music organization built around Dale's drumming and Brennan's singing. (Don't let anyone tell you Dale's reaction to his step bro's vocal, the funniest line in the movie; and if they give it away in the trailer I retract every positive thing in this review. Ditto Dale's description of his porn collection.)
It's been years since Ferrell or Reilly has really surprised us. They do what they do (not that it's easy), and with the right material and direction, it works. Both have stumbled recently, so it's good to see them in a (more or less) worthy vehicle. Yes, most of it sounds like it was written by a group of third-graders brainstorming at recess; but when the stars deliver it acting like third-graders, much of it overcomes even my objections to that kind of shtick.
They may, as in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, be primarily amusing themselves and director/co-writer Adam McKay, but this time enough of the fun communicates itself to the audience.
Jenkins is having an amazing year, adding this solidly hilarious supporting turn to his role of a lifetime in The Visitor, with Burn after Reading still to come. As for Steenburgen, it's always nice to see her, even when she looks like she found Mary Tyler Moore's old hair.
Sensitive viewers may be upset by homophobic slurs and the treatment of a blind man and his guide/attack dog, not to mention George W. Bush, somnambulists and probably a few other groups. It's not a polite picture.
Judging from the audience I saw Step Brothers with, the funniest thing in the movie is Will Ferrell's nutsack. Hell, they're the target audience. I'm just collateral damage.