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STEP BROTHERS (director/writer: Adam McKay; screenwriters: Will Ferrell/based on a story by Mr. Ferrell, Mr. McKay and John C. Reilly; cinematographer: Oliver Wood; editor: Brent White; music: Jon Brion; cast: Will Ferrell (Brennan Huff), John C. Reilly (Dale Doback), Richard Jenkins (Robert Doback), Mary Steenburgen (Nancy Huff), Adam Scott (Derek Huff), Kathryn Hahn (Alice Huff), Wayne Federman (Blind Man), Andrea Savage (Denise); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Judd Apatow/Jimmy Miller; Columbia Pictures; 2008)
“Step Brothers is no Bringing Up Baby.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Step Brothers is no Bringing Up Baby, but it has a lot of Jerry Lewis in it with tacked on smut. It’s a gross-out comedy with nothing to offer but limp infantile smutty jokes and then it kicks in with the same old predictable sitcom feel good message at the end that is regularly doled out on network TV. It leaves a message that even obnoxious dummies deserve to have success in America, one should never lose sight of your inner child and, most importantly, never lose your taste for fart jokes. There was enough material for a five minute film before it became a torture to sit through such a crude, tiresome and ill-conceived arrested-development fantasy film. The idiotic film is geared to those who take pleasure in an over-the-top display of boorish behavior, relentless lowbrow physical comedy (literally eating dog shit is supposed to be funny or Ferrell placing his balls on Reilly’s drums) and titillation over hearing foul language come out of the mouths of both responsible grownups and irresponsible immature adults.

It’s another one of producer Judd Apatow’s signature absurdities about a man-child not grown up. Will Ferrell’s manager, Jimmy Miller, was coproducer. This time the characters are two middle-aged men, Brennan Huff (Will Ferrell) and Dale Doback (John C. Reilly), who act like adolescents and become step brothers when Brennan’s very proper, saintly and sexy divorced mom Nancy (Mary Steenburgen) marries Dale’s widowed wealthy medical doctor dad Robert (Richard Jenkins). The two grown men act like spoiled children when together in Robert’s house. They pout, pull pranks, demand constant parental attention, play with their toys, climb the tree house to jerk off to girlie mags, throw temper tantrums and fight with each other over territorial rights. The semi-retarded men have no jobs, girlfriends or desire to live on their own. Eventually the two misfits realize they’re alike and bond, which becomes too much for their supportive parents to take as they become an overbearing silly duo and drive a wedge in their parents’ happy marriage. How this family problem gets resolved, with some valuable life lesson learned, is ridiculous, as one would expect, but unfortunately not funny. The loud comedy bangs out a number of raunchy sight gags to a script a mental midget could have written; the story was written by the director, Adam McKay (“Talladega Nights”), and the two male stars. The supporting cast includes Adam Scott channeling Tom Cruise, as he plays Ferrell’s younger successful brother who is a “total dick.” Kathryn Hahn plays Scott’s sex-crazed wife who favors quickies with Reilly in the toilet. Andrea Savage has an undeveloped role as Ferrell’s therapist and potential girlfriend.

The only snicker I had in this uninspired 95 minutes of offensive comedy in the suburbs came after the opening credits with a George W. Bush quote about families. Now the president, there’s a funny dude.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”