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Step Brothers

Sony Pictures // R // July 25, 2008
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Anrdoezrs]

Review by Michael Zupan | posted July 28, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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, runs pretty much unopposed to any other comedies at this point in the summer, and opens 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 brought together and forced to sleep in the same room with one another, 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 years old.

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 twist, and the comedic talents of Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly are involved. They're definitely the right actors for the job, but is their latest offering living up to the hype?

The simple premise of this film is taken a little further than perhaps it should. 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 try and 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 it 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 brother's relationship turns problematic for others, the even flow from the first half of the film quickly heads into choppy waters.

There are changes in peoples lives, and a lot of soul searching that comes and goes too fast. The ending was pretty disappointing much 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 on numerous levels. 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. A lot of director's 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 have to say 'oh come on already'! I ended up feeling that way here.


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, 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 walked out of the movie. I was dangerously close many times to feeling like I had wasted my money in going to see 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 it when it comes out on DVD. 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.

-About the Author- Michael Zupan is primarily a film guy, but has a variety of places where you can enjoy his work otherwise. Check for video game op-ed pieces and podcasts, and be sure to check out the sister site, Byte-Size Cinema, linked up top. This writer also contributes significantly to in-print magazines such as Minecraft Explorer and Fortnite Explorer!



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