Step Brothers (2008)
January 31, 2022 7:38 PM - Subscribe

Two aimless middle-aged losers still living at home are forced against their will to become roommates when their parents marry.

Brennan Huff and Dale Doback have one thing in common: they are both lazy, unemployed leeches who still live with their parents. When Brennan's mother and Dale's father marry and move in together, it turns the overgrown boys' world upside down. Their insane rivalry and narcissism pull the new family apart, forcing them to work together to reunite their parents.

Carol Cling: As a dedicated reporter, it’s my job to report that a local preview screening of "Step Brothers" earlier this week was packed to the gills with people laughing their heads off. (To be strictly accurate, "heads" is a family-newspaper euphemism for a different, somewhat less dignified portion of the human anatomy.)

As a dedicated movie critic, however, it’s my sacred duty to add that I don’t understand why in the hell they were laughing so hard.

Yes, "Step Brothers" is full of rude, lewd, crude humor. And no, I didn’t find the majority of it the least bit amusing, let alone bust-a-gut uproarious.

That ranks as a major disappointment, considering the two goofballs portraying the title "Step Brothers" — Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly — are usually good for at least a few laughs.

Lindy West: I was legitimately interested in watching Step Brothers. John C. Reilly is one of my favorite anyones anywhere. I love Jon Brion, who did the music. The movie has all the right cameos (Rob Riggle, Ian Roberts, Seth Rogen), seemingly the right director (Adam McKay), and the right producer (Judd Apatow) to make something at least watchable, if not classic.

But nope! The story of two curly-headed men-children, Reilly and Ferrell, forced to live together when their aging parents get married, Step Brothers is dull, ineptly paced, and lazy. There's a funny conceit about Ferrell's singing voice ("I've been called the songbird of my generation by people who've heard me"), and a few lines guaranteed to delight a fraternity bro, hopefully not too near you ("I've got a luscious V of hair going from my chest pubes down to my ball fro!"). But listen: Unicorn jokes were played out two years ago. My friends and I laughed at "mangina" in 11th grade. Come on, dudes!

Yes. Technically it is funny when Will Ferrell, specifically—ONLY Will Ferrell—says he's going to put his nutsack on John C. Reilly's drum kit, and then he does, and then they beat the shit out of each other. But I'm not going to let you win on a technicality. Not this time. Not anymore.

Charlotte O'Sullivan: There’s just one problem. Dude, the film so totally happens to be great. Ferrell and Reilly co-wrote the script with director Adam McKay. Which is to say, they pretty much ad-libbed the whole thing and, while some of the jokes fall flat, or outstay their welcome, most possess a crazed energy and astuteness that suggest the team put a lot of thought into this "no-brainer".

. . .

These actors obviously know their characters inside and out. We feel like intimates, too. Brennan and Dale are larger-than-life and very familiar: helpless despots, always on the brink of a meltdown. When the step-brothers both start sleepwalking things get really weird; when they kick Robert down the stairs we realise this a screwball farce that knows exactly when and why to get serious.

There is a plot. Brennan’s golden-boy younger brother (think Tom Cruise on Oprah Winfrey) offers to sell the family home so that Robert and Nancy can afford to sail round the world on their beloved yacht. This crisis forces the "bros" to unite and try all sorts of shenanigans, including going for "team" interviews and setting up a business that exploits their hard-to-pinpoint talents.

Step Brothers remains focused, however, on that central tension between the boys and their apparently doting parents. As in Frank Capra’s Arsenic and Old Lace, family life is hysterical — that is to say, full of hysteria.

Have Robert and Nancy made their children mad, or are they simply trying to make the best of having mad children? Brennan and Dale swear like troopers and gradually infect their parents ("What the f***ing f***?" yells Nancy).

posted by Carillon (6 comments total)
I was expecting to like this more than I did, given that I really love some of their other collaborations. Maybe it played differently in 2008 but I didn't feel that they were charming like I think I was supposed to? I will say Kathyrn Hahn was pretty great though as she is in most things.
posted by Carillon at 9:16 PM on January 31, 2022 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure exactly why, but the scene with Will Ferrel singing "Dust in the Wind" cracks me up so much every time I see it. Probably the most memorable part of the whole movie for me.
posted by some loser at 2:22 AM on February 1, 2022

It was the last film I enjoyed about men who won't grow up
posted by maxsparber at 11:09 AM on February 1, 2022 [1 favorite]

I've heard "It's the fucking Catalina Wine Mixer!" referenced in rap lyrics at least twice so just for that this movie deserves a place in some kind of hall of fame.
posted by slimepuppy at 11:55 AM on February 1, 2022 [1 favorite]

If you don't laugh like a jackass when Will Ferrell gets crushed by the bunkbed collapsing under the weight of John C. Reilly ("I've been meaning to you like guacamole?" *CRASH*)...
or the scene where Adam Scott and Kathryn Hahn and kids do a pitch-perfect car singalong to "Sweet Child o' Mine"...
or the scene where the brothers are sleepwalking and both proceed to destroy the entire kitchen while their exasperated parents look on...
then I guess you and I can't be friends.
posted by Atom Eyes at 10:56 AM on February 2, 2022

I took my wife out to see this for our tenth wedding anniversary. She still glares at me when I bring it up.
posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 1:18 PM on February 8, 2022

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