Brennan (Ferrell) is a 39 year-old stay-at-home layabout. So is Dale (Reilly), except hes 40. When Brennans mum (Steenburgen) marries Dales dad (Jenkins), the two are forced to live together. Can they put their differences aside and finally get off the
Talladega Nights, the second movie from the SNL-spawned creative team of Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, may have made big bucks but it was pretty disappointing, failing to capture the magic of Anchorman, their free-wheeling debut. But in introducing John C. Reilly as an unexpected comedic foil for Ferrell’s blustering idiocy, McKay and his writing partner laid the foundations for their third movie. And if it’s still a few notches beneath the inspired lunacy of Ron Burgundy and chums, it’s a definite return to form.
Although the problem of grown men refusing to leave the parental home is very real, McKay and Ferrell aren’t interested in social comment. Instead, they’re focused on making us laugh, a policy that hinges on the chemistry generated by Ferrell and Reilly.
Though the line blurs between Brennan and Dale (both are idiotic curly-haired man-children, engines of id, impulse, immature posturing and, Ferrell fans will be pleased to hear, primal screaming), Ferrell and Reilly are a superb double-act, Reilly’s cockiness meshing well with Ferrell’s puppy dog innocence. They’re fine separately, but when the two are together, be it during an extended fight scene with a bunch of kids, or a demented sleepwalking sequence, the movie is a blast. Crucially, they also make Dale and Brennan - who could very easily be obnoxious and unpleasant - likable.
However, there are missteps, such as the decision to root the action in a mundane world, which works against the outlandish humour (even Jenkins and Steenburgen, both fine actors, can’t sell the concept that anyone would put up with the crap Dale and Brennan pull). More damaging is McKay’s pursuit of an R rating (most likely a 15 over here), which doesn’t sit well with the tone of the movie or their established universe, which previously - erection gags and all - felt innocent and joyous. Gags about exposed balls or licking dog shit do not.
But when McKay focuses on the pure simplicity of the pair getting stupidly excited over tree houses, Chewbacca masks and samurai swords, Step Brothers is a hugely entertaining exercise in the comedy of the random, complete with improvised non-sequiturs, bonkers one-liners (“Your voice is a combination of Fergie and Jesus”), and a triumphant climactic sequence featuring a montage that’s actually funny.
Its no Anchorman, but its several steps in the right direction.