‘Step Brothers’: Fresh or familiar?

Step Brothers (2008)

Directed by Adam McKay

7/10  R

From the comedy trio that brought you “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” comes “Step Brothers,” a comedy that proves that everyone gets older, but not everyone grows up. Two 40-year-old live-at-home losers, Brennan and Dale (Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly) are forced to reside in the same room when their sexagenarian parents get hitched. A sibling rivalry fizzles out when they find a common enemy in Brennan’s brother Derek (Adam Scott), and when their immature antics lead their parents (Mary Steenburgen and Richard Jenkins) to the brink of divorce, they must work together to bring them back together.

“Step Brothers” displays comic geniuses at their best—Ferrell, Reilly, and director Adam McKay even improve upon their aforementioned 2006 auto-racing hit. And the stars co-wrote the script with their director (here I’ll mention that the movie was also Judd Apatow-produced…insert sounds of awe), creating an instant comedy classic (at least if you, like me, desire hysterical one-liners). Only “Due Date” since has given me so many laughs after so many viewings (about 20 thus far). And the all-star cast is a blast. While Steenburgen is better off in dramatic roles (her witchy role in “Philadelphia,” for instance), Jenkins is hilarious when his authoritarian parenting is at its loudest. Ferrell and Reilly are the new Laurel and Hardy, teaming up again to make for some riotous laughter. But it’s the lack of a feminine lead that makes for an interesting comical spin. While Dale is busy cheating with Derek’s wife Alice (Kathryn Hahn), Brennan dreams up a loving relationship with his psychiatrist (Andrea Savage)…but neither of them commit to a relationship, and their brief encounters are shown sparingly.

Don’t get me wrong, “Step Brothers” can be stupid. It’s a guilty pleasure…a haphazard, irrelevant, absurd mess of a story that would fail if it weren’t for the expertly timed and perfectly executed delivery of lines from its two stars. It sometimes abuses the curse words that set apart a cheap flick from a legitimate comedy, and goes for short stretches of time without a funny line (unlike skit shows like “SNL,” however, these unfunny moments are short-lived and are generally followed by a gut-buster). And I’d be amiss not to mention costume design (and where would be a more fitting place to mention it than smack-dab in the middle of this paragraph?) Brennan can be seen wearing shirts likely found in a Goodwill or a Midwest flea market, sporting one three-quarter sleeved shirt with the faces of the Judd’s plastered on the front, and another tie-dyed rag with majestic horses riding through a small stream. Dale’s Yoda shirt is worn multiple times, showing his general lack of apparel. In all cases, these “before” shots on a show like “What Not to Wear” are intricately chosen and help define the characters better than the just-for-laughs script does.

Watch it once, watch it twice, or watch it three times and forever integrate its one-liners into your lexicon forever, “Step Brothers” is plain old good fun.

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