Stupid, but charming

Colin Browne is wooed by the juvenile Step Brothers.

What’s that you say? You’ve been waiting all summer for the chance to see Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly act like idiots again? Well, get in line, because Step Brothers is here.

The new offering from Director Adam Mckay (Anchorman, Talladega Nights), co-written by Ferrell and O’Reilly, is something of a postmodern Dumb and Dumber, basking in its own tongue-in-cheek stupidity, which is part of the charm.

But is it charming enough to hold your attention for 95 minutes?

Don’t misunderstand me, this is not Bio-Dome-stupid and not even Wild Hogs-stupid—the writing and performances are top notch—but it’s still pretty damn stupid. In fact, it’s so sublimely juvenile that you may leave the theatre either inspired to go out and make comedy movies yourself, or desperate to rent something right away with some emotional substance to make you feel human again.

As is typical in the Apatow/McKay camp, you’ve got your crass-but-loveable-dufus-makes-good kind of storyline that would make you sick if it weren’t so tightly packed with one-liners (“It feels like a lightning bolt hit the tip of my penis!”) and other general silliness—like, say, the rubbing of nutsacks on drumkits. If that’s your thing.

Ferrell and O’Reilly are admittedly hilarious in their finely-tuned, big dumb kid personas, but we already know this and have plenty of other vehicles to check out if we want to see them in action (Walk Hard, Semi-Pro, Blades of Glory, etc.) As John Lennon said, “You’ve got all the old albums if you want to reminisce.”  So why bother with Step Brothers? Simple enough—if you enjoyed those movies you’ll like this one too.

Steppin’ up
Step Brothers is an improvement from Talladega Nights but lacks the texture of Walk Hard.

The storyline is as follows: Brennan (Ferrell) and Dale (O’Reilly) are 40 year-old unemployed man-children living at home with their single parents Nancy and Robert (Mary Steenburgen and Richard Jenkins respectively) until an amorous encounter between mother and father brings the foursome together under one roof.

Sparks of contention fly between Brennan and Dale involving whispered bedtime threats (“I’m going to fill a bag with bars of soap and beat the shit out of you with it.”) and possessive childhood squabbling (“Don’t touch my drum kit!”) culminating in a physical throwdown on the front lawn.

Eventually, the duo spend an evening with Brennan’s younger brother Derek (played with despicable precision by Adam Scott) forming a bond over their mutual hatred for him—that, and a previously unspoken affinity for Full House actor John Stamos. Indeed, Scott’s portrayal of an aristocratic jerk who owns a helicopter leasing agency is so strong that for a moment, the film seems as though it’s setting itself up for something a little deeper than job interview fart jokes and recycled 80s nostalgia. Unfortunately, the character winds up doing less than deserved.

After a string of unfortunate events leads to Nancy and Robert’s divorce, the step brothers set about learning how to be grown-ups, so that they may come to support themselves, but also succeed in bringing their parents back together.

Ironically, as soon as Dale and Brennan manage to achieve a small measure of independence, their parents miss the way things used to be, and Robert says, “I can’t stand to see you so crushed and normal.” He then waxes on about how we must never lose sight of our true selves.

This may sound like an episode of Silver Spoons, but when did Ricky Schroeder ever get the chance to wipe his ass with a bathmat? Possibly never. Which might be a good thing.

The film gets bogged down with ironic cultural references and Hollywood cliché near the end—namely having everything work out for everyone—but the sharply written jokes and absurdly earnest performances manage to pull off something that would have felt desperate in less capable hands. With Ferrell and McKay honing the script to suit their senses of humour, and man of the hour Judd Apatow producing, how could things go wrong?

And for what it’s worth, things don’t go wrong.

That said, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a backlash of angry websites run by 40-year-old men still living at home with their parents—because according to this movie, they drink diet Pepsi for breakfast and play piss swords with each other.

Step Brothers is now showing at Empire Studios 12. Call 722-5775 for times and prices.