I have to give Step Brothers one thing - it's bold. I don't mean the movie itself is bold, although at times it does seem to step into uncomfortable territory with hilarious results. It takes a premise that has great promise, ran pretty much unopposed to any other comedies during the summer, and opened a week after The Dark Knight. Bold might even be an understatement here.
Step Brothers on the outside has a fairly simple premise. Two forty year old unemployed men are forced to live and sleep together in the same room with when their parents fall in love and get married. This happens occasionally in the real world to real people, but the lack of work has left these men completely co-dependent on their parents. What we have are a couple of grown-ups that end up bickering over their territory like they're twelve year olds.
Watching the trailer for Step Brothers, this idea seemed like it would have made the perfect summer comedy. After all, you have an interesting idea that hasn't been done with this kind of a twist, and the comedic talents of Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly are involved. They're definitely the right actors for the job, but can their latest offering live up to the hype?
The simple premise of this film is taken a little further than perhaps it should have. When Brennan (Ferrell) and Dale (Reilly) put their differences aside, they become too much to deal with. Their newlywed parents (Richard Jenkins, Mary Steenburgen) quickly have a deteriorating relationship on their hands, and they try to get the hell out of Dodge in a hurry. Their house is being put on the market, and their children (if you can call them that) need to find jobs or they'll be out on the street.
This addition to the storyline is a pretty good one on paper, but ends up being the downfall for this film on two different levels. Once this part of the story kicks in with full force, the second half of the movie seems to be, in a word, sloppy. This aspect of the storyline is always building ever so slowly, but the first half of the movie was a delightful breeze to sit through. We had Will and John bringing big laughs to the screen, and that was pretty much it. Once the step brothers relationship turns problematic for others, the even flow from the first half of the film quickly heads into choppy waters.
There are a lot of changes in the lives of the characters we follow, and what should have been a nice and full journey of soul searching, ends being tied up as quickly as it began. The ending was pretty disappointing because of the same reason. Realizations and final conclusions quickly wrap everything up in a nice little bow, without really giving the audience much credit.
I went into the film expecting a comedy that was based on the stupidity of grown men, but comedies still deserve to be smart when it comes to their presentation, don't they? Instead of opting to try and even things out a little, the plot takes a back seat to the language and bodily gross-out humor. Comedy can be based on shock, be it licking white dog crap, or playing a dangerous game of marking your territory by rubbing your testicles on another's belongings. One thing that comedy also requires is a decent context to wrap itself around. Step Brothers never comes close to hitting the mark.
The act seems to get old somewhere past the middle of the movie, as I've said. It's not because the lead roles don't continually deliver the laughs, because they deliver hilarity throughout the entirety of the film. There's a very vague line in movies where ignorance being an inconvenience to other characters is funny, and when it ends up turning into torture for everyone involved. A lot of directors can't seem to find this line. Take Meet the Parents for example. It's a great comedy, but there's a time in the film where you see poor Ben Stiller getting emotionally trampled so much, and you just have to say, "Oh come on already!" I ended up feeling that way here.
I saw the theatrical cut back when it was in theaters, and in fact, a good portion of this review was from my theatrical review itself. I spruced it up to reflect my current writing style/ability and make it sound current. That being said, I went just for the extended cut this time around. I was crossing my fingers, hoping for the mess in the latter half of the film to be fixed up by some additional material to fill in the gaps. I took a wild guess out of the blue, and figured that what I'd probably get instead are some additional scenes that highlight some of the jokes that didn't make it into the film the first time around. But nah, it couldn't be. I mean, there's an additional seven minutes worth of footage here!
Let's just say, I hate being right about these sort of things most of the time.
Although the additional material was funny in and of itself, all it did was make the film feel much longer than it needed to be. The theatrical cut felt that way too, so it's no surprise, but when will companies cease in force feeding us this crap? It's one thing for a director to look at his work and say, "Gee, that really could have been better." I'll accept that! However, when we're given additional scenes merely for some more off-colored jokes, what's the point? All it does is drag a film that's already a pretty mixed bag due to some unbalanced storytelling.
I have mixed feelings about this presentation, despite the fact that I'm pretty sure it's presented the way it was meant to be seen. This AVC encoded image is in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1, and generally looks very good. There doesn't appear to be any compressional issues such as macroblocking or excessive noise, and there hasn't been any edge enhancement or DNR applied to try and make the image look better than it is. Grain is intact as it should be, and minimal overall.
My real gripe with the image is its color and contrast. Skin tones can look natural at times, but there are numerous instances where they look almost orange. To top it off, the outdoor scenes don't have a true sense of, well, being outdoors. The image looks slightly dim due to the contrast taking on a look that's very warm. Whites don't shine as they should. Black levels are deep and inky as they should be, but unfortunately they can wipe away some of the detail from dark scenes.
Watching through the special features, the clips taken from the movie have this very warm and at times, dark look to them. I had seen this film in theaters, and I don't recall it looking as off as it does here, but I was pretty disappointed in the film overall, so I may not have been paying the utmost attention to picture quality at the time. Although there's plenty of detail in this transfer that's mostly free of any dirt or other kinds of imperfections, I was pretty disappointed with the seemingly intentional warm look this film was given. Let me give the team that worked on this film a hint - Why not let us calibrate our own television sets instead of calibrating your films for us?
This film doesn't rely on special effects or intense action to move things along, so it's no surprise the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track is front heavy. All the dialogue sounds very clean, never wandering out of its crisp, natural sound into 'tin can' territory. There are no audible hisses or pops from the dialogue either. Where this track truly shines though, is with the musical score. It's mostly used as background filler, acting almost like a soundtrack to an old school black and white sitcom. It's very light, bouncy, and fun. I can't remember the last time I was able to pick out a background heavy score while having it sound as clean as this one did! From time to time there are other directional effects, and when they do decide to show up, they do a great job of creating an audible sense of depth.
Also included: French and Portuguese Dolby TrueHD 5.1 tracks, as well as Spanish and Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital tracks. Subtitles are available in English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Thai, Korean, and Chinese.
Commentary with Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Adam McKay, Special Guest NBA Star Baron Davis, and Scored by John Brion - I know what you're thinking, "This commentary has a score?!" Yes, yes it does! I have to say, this is the most entertaining commentary I think I've ever had the pleasure of listening to! The score for this track opens up, and John and Will are singing along to introduce themselves. It doesn't end there either. They often sing along with the music to explain some of the technical aspects of the film.
I died when I heard Reilly singing about how a lot of scenes were shot using green screen on a set, so the actors had more time to improv scenes since they weren't dealing with a hectic 'on location' schedule. Cue Will chiming in with, "Some of these green screen effects still look pretty bad!" Reilly plays right along and sings with him. Absolutely brilliant! It does get a little tiring from time to time, but these guys deserve major kudos for doing such a unique commentary.
Blu-ray Exclusive - Boats 'N Hoes Music Video Editor - One scene in the film involves our troublesome duo showing off a music video they made. It's absolutely ridiculous, and I mean that in a good way. It's meant to look as if it were done by a couple of amateurs, so I guess it's only suitable that we're given the opportunity to edit it together ourselves! This feature gets some points on the board for being unique, and it brings the game into overtime with its ability to upload the videos you create over BD Live. Unfortunately, it seems to be more of a filler feature that we don't really need. Not only that, but it's not that fun when you're using a remote.
Deleted Scenes, Extended Scenes, Alternate Takes - So much improv was done, there were a lot of alternative takes of certain scenes or lines that didn't make the cut, or had to be shortened. There's plenty of material to see across these three features, and just about every second of it is gold. It's a shame that Step Brothers wasn't about making a television show that you could revisit every week, because I would have loved to have seen all this stuff the first time around. Unfortunately when it comes to making a movie though, you have to sacrifice certain things, and include them on a Blu-ray release like this! It's definitely not throw-away material, so make sure you check these features out.
Previews - I wouldn't normally mention such a feature, but do you think they went overboard? Pineapple Express, Superbad, Talladega Nights, Walk Hard, Hancock, The House Bunny, You Don't Mess With the Zohan, Casino Royale, 88 Minutes, Prom Night, Starship Troopers 3, 21, Vantage Point, and Resident Evil: Degeneration. Just give us trailers to your whole catalogue of films, why doncha?!
Line-O-Rama, Gag Reel - These features are focused on more of the on screen hilarity that's caused by improvisation. We get to see a bajillion shots for each scene that the actors kept coming up with new lines for, as well as all the crack ups and laughter that's caused by some of the lines that were pulled out of thin air.
Job Interviews, Therapy - These features reference individual scenes within the film, and much like the features before them, we get to witness multiple takes that didn't end up getting used for the film. As with the rest of the improv material that has appeared throughout the special features thus far, it's all gold baby!
Prestige Worldwide Full Presentation - This is an extended version of the presentation our terrible two make later on in the film. Another casualty of editing.
Boats 'N Hoes Music Video - This is the two minute video in its final presentation entirety.
Dale vs. Brennan - Dale and Brennan spend a lot of time talking crap to each other for a while, until they blow their tops and start to beat the hell out of each other like they were going to be able to sleep with Mary Steenburgen if they won. This is a montage of all the insults that are tossed around carelessly until the big battle between them begins...
The Making of Step Brothers - This is really the first lengthy featurette so far, coming in at around 22 minutes in length. There's come cast and crew interviews that highlight how some of the movie was filmed, and more specifically, the kind of 'loose' atmosphere they wanted during the filming itself. The idea was basically to do a very loose kind of filming method with a specific story in mind, and eventually it would be cut down and trimmed in order to create a final product that had both humor and depth. Perhaps everyone involved had too much fun watching Reilly and Ferrell work together masterfully, because the 'depth' portion of this film was an absolute mess.
The Music of Step Brothers - This feature is 18 minutes in length, and a little too long for what it's meant to do. We're given a very in depth explanation of why the score sounds the way it does, and there's plenty of behind the scenes takes that show us how the process is done. I really think we could have had a really tight 5 minute presentation though, and we could have walked away with the same knowledge.
Charlyne Moves In - This is sort of a gag featurette that was filmed on the set with the specific intention of having it show up on a home video release. Charlyne Yi, who had a minor part as a dorky stoner in Knocked Up, is told by Apatow she can pretty much live on the set for a while since she has nowhere to go. Everyone plays around, shoots some insults at her, and there's even a moment where she sits down at the kitchen table while a scene is filming. It's not a great addition to an already overwhelming amount of extras, but it's entertaining and I actually wanted to sit the whole way through.
L'Amour En Caravane - Another gag featurette, a love affair is caught on film between the growing ever so closer Mary Steenburgen and Richard Jenkins. Surprise appearances by Ted Danson and Larry David really make this worth the watch!
Also included is the red band trailer.
It's a pretty exhaustive set of extra features, and most of them are in high definition, hence why they needed a second disc to fit it all in. A lot of these features could have been completely unnecessary if the deleted content was originally tossed because of its quality, but that doesn't seem to be the case. Since this material was tossed in order to make a better film overall, it's all an absolute riot, and this exhaustive set of features is well worth the time.
Although the writing for the second half of the film turns from clever to what's seemingly a rushed mess, Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly kept me watching. Their acting, along with Jenkins and Steenburgen's, made for consistent laughs throughout the entire movie. Unfortunately, the big picture didn't get executed nearly as well as it could have. There was a lack of focus in trying to push the film to be more than just a series of jokes for ninety-five minutes. It was so poorly executed in fact, that if it wasn't for the leads spot on ability to make me laugh, I would have wanted to just turn the movie off. I was dangerously close many times to feeling like I had wasted precious time of my life by seeing this, yet just when I was about to teeter over that edge, I was reeled back in for another few minutes. I couldn't believe the run-time was as short as it was, because it seemed to last much longer than I thought it did.
I'd recommend you rent this title before you throw down a fat bill that's collecting dust in your wallet. Have a few beers and laugh your way through the film. The comedy in Step Brothers is something to be seen, but definitely not worthy of being an addition to your home video collection in the future. Your mileage may vary depending on your taste, but this film sure isn't for everyone. If you like this film, then you shouldn't hesitate to buy it. The picture quality is nice despite its lacking contrast, the sound is great, and you have all the special features in the world to keep you satisfied.