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Step Brothers: Kids laughing, Kids crying, Kids getting beat up by adults.

Posted by goldwriting on July 29, 2008

I don’t know why or how, but Ryan Seacrest has totally hypnotized me.

Another weekend came along and you know what that means? Of course you do, it’s another comedy somehow associated with Judd Apatow. Within the last two to three years it is an inescapable fact; 65% of all laughter is attributed to this one man, along with 47% of newly coined sex jokes. He is the reigning golden boy of the comedy world and his latest stab at the laugh track to hit the screens is Step Brothers. Judd Apatow did reel himself back to only a producing credit, but we can all rest assured that even his name being attached got the greenlight to glow just a tad bit brighter.

Step Brothers is the story of Dale and Brennan, two grown men still living with their respective parents and forced to live together when their parents get remarried. Picture the Brady Bunch, but only one boy on each side who just happens to be 40-ish years old. Not the most original idea in the world, but this movie doesn’t rely on the plot to get people into those theater seats. It relies solely on the comedic talents of Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly, who play Brennan and Dale respectively. Will also co-wrote the story with John and director Adam McKay, while Will and Adam finished out the actual screenplay. Usually I’m not a huge fan of the actors having such a big part of the writing process, unless it was something they wrote years before, but in this case what you get is an extra sense of camaraderie from our two bumbling heroes. John and Will play off each other to such an amazing extent you might begin to feel the whole film is done in improv. Everything comes off as an instant reaction, exactly the way a twelve-year-old boy would react, which just happens to be where their emotional maturity is in this film. Both actors hit home runs on a number of the comedic beats and it was especially nice to see Will Ferrell hitting on all cylinders once again, after some heavy missteps in Kicking and Screaming, Bewitched and Semi-Pro. As for Jon, he proved once again why so many love working with him, because he commits to every little second he is on screen.

Now, sad to say, the strength of their characters is also the one problem in the movie. The first half-hour is fun, watching these grown men talk and act like pre-teens, but that trick gets a little dry mid-way through the film and it starts to stretch the disbelief a touch too far. The characters of the parents have a tough situation since they have to ride the line between showing love and compassion for their children and yet treating them like grown men. That dicotimy proved not only tough for the actors, but also for the audience. Eventually it just felt too unbelievable that these two characters could exist, not only in the world of this film, but anywhere.

The writing is strong and a good portion of the film is clever, humorous and in a few places surprisingly hilarious, but it never reached the level of the comedies we have been graced with over the past few years, like Anchorman, 40-Year-Old Virgin or Superbad. Apatow has mined diamonds from the creative caves in his head, but it is possible by becoming the golden boy of comedy, he might be the one man glut for laughers in the coming years. Does the bar still get set too high if you’re the one that set it? I guess we shall see soon enough. He’s got seven movies under his production skills for next year alone, even one more this year as well. Although that does sound like a lot, just remember, he’s bound to hit you with a really good dick joke somewhere. That should be enough to get at least one viewing.

Recommendation: Great performances, not necessarily a “rush to see in the theater” flick. Netflix + your buddies + drinks, that should be a good formula for this.

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