I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve watched Step Brothers before I got into movies, for I’d always come out laughing at the silliness shown inside of a concept that revolves around 40-year-old man children still trying to acquire normal lives for themselves. But I was worried what coming back to Step Brothers for my first time in so long would do to my own opinion for my own taste in films has only grown within the many years, although to my own delight it didn’t only hold up. I’ve only found myself laughing even more from watching Step Brothers than I could remember having done so years back. And I’m not always a fan of Will Ferrell in the meantime, but with watching him in Adam McKay movies he makes this silliness work so perfectly, and that’s what I’ve always loved about Step Brothers, the manner in which it embraces how silly it is without pretending to be more.
Brennan Huff and Dale Doback are both in their 40’s and they still live with their parents, without any sort of job and now they live together because their parents married. They start out like any other rivaling pair of siblings, for they fight constantly over small things and they still behave like children. It’s not unusual to see Will Ferrell playing these sorts of roles but with Adam McKay coming behind the camera to write a role for this persona of Ferrell’s, he allows charm to shine inside of his style of comedy. It’s a film that’s tailor made for Will Ferrell’s brand of humour and doesn’t keep everything as such on the surface level. We know it’s a film about man-children at heart, and yet it’s so open with the sort of comedy that it is it only becomes irresistible. But when one looks at running trends within American comedies, these sorts of protagonists are usually common, so it was only fitting that McKay had went ahead to make a film about such characters where we would not expect so much as a whole from them.
Ferrell and Reilly make a great comedic pair once again after having collaborated in another Adam McKay film, Talladega Nights – once again displaying excellent chemistry all around between the two. But for as much as Ferrell’s style of comedy has never always appealed to me, there always seemed to be something more coming out when Adam McKay was the one directing him. For as much as Ferrell and Reilly’s man-child antics drive the film’s humour towards the more juvenile whether it be within how vulgar it is or fart jokes, yet somehow there’s a dramatic balance that elevates Step Brothers above being a simply juvenile comedy. It isn’t pretending to pose these people as more than just man-children, it’s a tale about their own growing up and there’s another level to where it only begins to show another level of cleverness.
When we reach a point in our life where we turn into adolescents, sometimes we have it rooted inside of us that we want to remain children because it was a point where we allowed our own sense of self-discovery to flow at its most free. It was only clear from here I found something extremely thoughtful about Step Brothers and how it embraces the ridiculous and sometimes idiotic nature of its comedy, yet another part of me just remembers how much of this wouldn’t be nearly half as funny if Dale and Brennan were played by actual children like Ferrell and Reilly are playing them to be. But it doesn’t ring solely for comedy films where these man-children are thriving upon the way they are seeing the world around them, and it’s clear enough from the casting of Ferrell who’s always played a man overwhelmed with responsibility in his most common role. It almost feels nostalgic in its delivery, one part of where its charm finds itself working beautifully.
The film’s humour doesn’t always work, but where it does it’s immensely quotable and it’s a gag that comes and goes. Perhaps it seems to reach for far too much when it hits the middle for it only begins to find itself slowing down all the more, occasionally going back towards repeating jokes that have already been done perfectly in previous scenes. I still find myself laughing my head off at the drum set fights for they’ve brought out where the movie is indeed at some of its most quotable, but when it begins slowing down there’s a feeling that certain scenes go on too long for their own good. These moments aren’t annoying per se, but when they come about they only turn their own gags tiresome. But it’s a problem of how it finds itself treating its own concept, among many ways in which Step Brothers could find itself sinking – because the whole film ends up becoming a single joke that’ll either work or fall flat. It throws away the F-bomb endlessly and it may be tiring for some, but I always found it fits given the nature of the film.
You can say what you will about Step Brothers‘s style of humour but it’s impressive enough to me that it had already shown itself to be far more than just a movie thriving upon childish humour for about an hour and a half. Stupid comedies can come by in the form of Adam Sandler movies, but in Adam McKay and Will Ferrell’s collaboration in Step Brothers you have something that makes that sort of childish humour work best. A more juvenile side that comes out from both Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly mixed with the nuanced nature of their parents as played by Mary Steenburgen and Richard Jenkins, it’s nice to see for once a comedy about man-children that isn’t pretending to be much more, rather instead one that feels nostalgic in perhaps the best way. Because I can’t even name another film about man-children in this day and age that isn’t pretending these characters aren’t man-children at heart, and it’s among many reasons I still find Step Brothers hilarious.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Sony.
Directed by Adam McKay
Screenplay by Will Ferrell, Adam McKay
Produced by Jimmy Miller, Judd Apatow
Starring Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Richard Jenkins, Mary Steenburgen, Adam Scott, Kathryn Hahn
Release Year: 2008
Running Time: 98 minutes