Reviewed by GREG KING.
Will Ferrell has carved a cinematic career out of playing the obnoxious, perennially immature man-child. In his latest film Step Brothers he proffers us yet another variation on the theme, but his familiar shtick is wearing a bit thin by now. The script (co-written by Ferrell, co-star John C Reilly and director Andy McKay) goes for the obvious gags at times, and the humour is deliberately lowbrow, tasteless and puerile.
Ferrell plays Brennan, a 40-year old slacker who still lives at home with his long-suffering mother (Mary Steenburgen, wasted in a fairly thankless role). Reilly plays Dale, another middle-aged under achiever who still lives at home with his widowed father (Richard Jenkins). When Dale and Brennan’s parents meet at a conference, fall in love and quickly marry, the two spoiled off spring are forced to live under the same roof. Even worse, they are forced to share the same room as Dale refuses to clear his drum kit out of the spare room. The pair’s instant dislike for each other causes havoc, and their strained relationship and constant bickering creates tension between their parents. Things get worse when their parents plan to retire and sell the house, thus forcing the boys to suddenly face up to a few of life’s realities.
Step Brothers is the latest film from Judd Apatow’s production company. But after a string of successes and, in particular, the highs of the wonderful Knocked Up and Superbad, the films from Apatow’s company have been on a steady decline. Step Brothers is rude, offensive, juvenile, raucous, and largely unfunny, and likely only to appeal to fans of Ferrell’s style of overly boisterous humour and weird antics.
Throughout his body of work (Magnolia, Chicago, etc), character actor Reilly has perfected his role as the buffoon, the lovable loser and the second string, but lately he has been the perfect comedic foil for Ferrell’s overly boisterous style. The pair brings a manic energy to their roles here, although their characters are basically unlikeable and unsympathetic. For Jenkins his role here is something of an embarrassing comedown following his sublime work in the recent art house drama The Visitor.
McKay’s direction is flat and laboured, and the film’s main messages seem to imply that it’s okay to be selfish, lazy, indifferent, immature, irresponsible and demanding. He has directed Ferrell’s recent comedies Anchorman and Talladega Nights, and although he seems to have an innate understanding of his star’s boisterous mannerisms he is unable to rein in his usual excesses. Nonetheless, Step Brothers will certainly appeal to the adolescent males who seem to be the primary audience for Ferrell’s boisterous comic style.