22 July 2008

Mooney at the Movies: Step Brothers

Will: "John, do you think we'll ever be taken seriously?"
John: "Speak for yourself. I've already been nominated for an Oscar."
Will: "Well, at least we get to swear in this one."
John: "Shut the &*@$ up, Will." (Columbia)

Step Brothers (B-)

Starring Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Mary Steenburgen, Richard Jenkins, Adam Scott
Story by Ferrell & Adam McKay & Reilly
Screenplay by Ferrell and McKay
Directed by McKay

Most of the summer's biggest and best movies have had much more going on than entertaining you. Whether it was WALL·E's ecological message or The Dark Knight's moral conundrums, your brain got a workout too. But sometimes, sometimes you just want to forget about thinking and laugh about those $11 you just plunked down.

Step Brothers is one of those kind of movies. Here, you won't have to work for your laughs. There's plenty of jokes, but with that many swings, it's highly likely that not all of them will hit. And that's the case with this film. For every sight gag that works (Will Ferrell molesting John C. Reilly's drumset), there's at least one that doesn't (the boys sleepwalking and throwing things around).

But the difference between this and McKay and Ferrell's previous collaborations (Anchorman and Talladega Nights) is that now they've gone for the jugular (or in this case the testicular) with an R rating. No more shying away from F-words or Apatow's signature male nudity. It's all on profane, hilarious display here.

The set-up goes like this: Dale (Reilly) lives with his single dad (Richard Jenkins, immediately following up his two most serious roles in The Kingdom and The Visitor), and Brennan (Ferrell, recently fired from PetSmart) lives with his single mom (Mary Steenburgen, gleefully lowering her acting standards). The two singles get married, and the boys don't take a shine to each other at first (it's not that they don't like each other; they just feel threatened by each other's presence), but soon bond over their favorite dinosaurs and, um, magazines, as well as their mutual hatred of Brennan's younger brother Derek (Adam Scott).

Now if it sounds more like a framework for a bevy of sight gags and less a real plot, that's because it is. But of course what McKay lacks in storytelling, he makes up for in quotable dialogue. A sampling:

"You have the voice of an angel. It's like Fergie meets Jesus."

"Shut up! You're waking the neighbors! Let the dirt shower over you."

"Sticks and stones may break my bones but I will repeatedly kick you in the balls!"

And many more that I won't publish on this blog.

But if none of those strike you as particularly funny, or you've grown tired of Ferrell's man-boy schtick, than you'll probably hate this movie. This movie is a dividing line as far as comedies go. You'll either laugh or you won't. And there are both belly laughs and dry spells here. Just be forewarned: the laughs come easy and cheap but they don't come as frequently as they should or could.

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