Reel Society

Reviews for the latest movies in theaters and on DVD.

Step Brothers

 
Review by Mark Lengieza 
Will Ferrell, where have you gone?  The answer to this question might just be “over the top,” which is exactly what Step Brothers is.  The latest comedic romp from Ferrell does little more than Semi-Pro to provide me with what a lot of his previous films did: lots of laughter. 

I really was a huge fan of Mr. Ferrell.  I once would have called him the best comedic actor working in the film industry.  Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy is a classic that will always remain one of the most hilarious films I have ever seen.  It just seems that his last few projects have lacked what Anchorman and Talladega Nights had: what I like to call “the quotability factor.”  This is what I believe makes any great comedy stick with you long after you have seen it; great dialogue that leaves you laughing as you walk out of the theater.  Step Brothers didn’t deliver on this. 

The film relies very heavily on stupid humor, whether it be the repetitive use of curse words or the random acts of violence and sex, it’s just too over-the-top.  Don’t get me wrong:  I did laugh during the movie.  It definitely had its moments, but I have come to expect more from Ferrell.  I was excited about his re-teaming with his Talladega Nights co-star John C. Reilly in this film, and their chemistry really is the film’s only saving grace.  They feed off of each other perfectly; in these roles, however, I just couldn’t help but find them more or less pointless. 

The plot is thin at best, ridiculous at worst.  I couldn’t relate to the characters at all, and like I said, most of the humor is just them beating each other up.  I know that over-the-top slapstick humor appeals to a lot of people, and there were several laughs from the audience.  I just found it all way too immature and dumb.  It was almost a retread of Semi-Pro without the basketball.  Step Brothers has a few cheap laughs, but all-in-all it is a completely mediocre and forgettable film.  Ferrell really should go back to toning his films down and relying on actual good writing, like in the past.  I believe once he decides that he is shooting for an “R” rating, it’s all downhill from there. 

2 ½ /5 stars
 
 
 
 

Review by Chris Maitland 

Will Ferrell is back and almost better than ever.  After a series of pretty-good-but-not-great sports comedies (Blades of Glory, Semi-Pro), he goes back to the basics with his good buddies Adam McKay and John C. Reilly in Step Brothers.

If you weren’t aware that Ferrell had previously collaborated with McKay on Anchorman and Talladega Nights, that's okay.  I personally believe that those two films are Ferrell’s best (besides, perhaps, that great cameo in Wedding Crashers). Anchorman, I think, might be one of the best comedies of all time. But talking about THIS film, it actually comes close in quality.  Step Brothers' fast-paced vulgarity and sharp one-liners keep the movie fresh throughout. Also, the chemistry between Ferrell and Reilly is unmatched by any comic duo out there nowadays. But let me warn you, this film is extremely vulgar; it's not the kind of film you bring the kids to see (which, gievn that it's rated R, means you probably shouldn't be anyway), which pretty much describes most Ferrell films this side of Elf.

People have told me that they found this movie to be thin on plot, with a lot of amateurish humor... which is mostly true.  But the fact of the matter is, that doesn't really bring the film down at all.  And of course it's "amateurish"... it's Will Ferrell!  What were you expecting?

The acting and cameos were great. As I already stated, Ferrell and Reilly feed of each other really well. The supporting cast did their part as well, delivering some great lines and adding to the mayhem.  (You may be pleased to know that there is a brilliant cameo by Seth Rogen, who absolutely steals the show.)  Overall, if you want a really solid R-Rated comedy that has no shortage of laughs and great quotes then check it out.

4 1/2/5 stars
 
 
By Matthew Frendo
 

When you go into a Will Ferrell movie, you already pretty much know what you're going to get.  The question is never "what?" but more along the lines of "is it going to be good or bad?"  Step Brothers manages to be about halfway in-between, meaning that the first half is outright hilarious, while the second half is filled with regurgitated, albeit less funny, renditions of the first half.  To put it another way, it's far superior to the idiotic Talladega Nights, but not as good as the financially-disastrous yet pretty damn funny Semi-Pro. 

The main problem here, to be frank, is that the Will Ferrell brand of comedy is just getting tired.  He'll yell (oh, will he yell) out a few lines that contain a somewhat entertaining vulgarity or two, then say more vulgarities with a serious face, and the before-mentioned vulgarities are supposed to cause the audience to explode in a roar of laughter.  This works for some people, such as Seth Rogen.  But Seth Rogen (at least in most roles) puts a heart into the character that makes me care about him, which makes the crude nature of the humor funnier, as it comes out of pretty decent guy.  Will Ferrell's characters don't have that heart, and end up just being a man who's unrelatable in every sense of the word, spitting vulgarities at top decibel.  Like usual, it was funny for about 45 minutes, at which point there was no substance to keep the story going.

As for John C. Reilly… I just keep wondering, why did this man start doing comedies?  I've been a fan of his dramatic work since first viewing Hard Eight back in 1996.  He was a great actor, giving near perfect performances in Boogie Nights, The Good Girl, Magnolia, and Gangs of New York.  And now his new goal in life is trying to be a less-enthused version of Will Ferrell's usual one-dimensional character, which is a shame.  I sincerely hope these guys can find a new route to take their respective talents, because if they keep going on their current path, they'll be analogous to one of the '80's hair metal bands who kept regurgitating the same garbage in the face of changing times.

Overall, this might make for an okay watch if it's on cable and the other only alternative is Olympic figure skating (there is nothing more boring than figure skating, unless it’s Blades of Glory).  Other than that, there are too many good movies coming out right now to bother with this.  To be honest, if I keep thinking about it, I'm going to start lowering it to 2 stars…

2 ½ /5 stars
 
 
 
 
 

Review by Rebecca Roth

If you like Will Ferrell’s particular brand of comedy, you will undoubtedly enjoy Step Brothers. After his catastrophic outing earlier this year, Semi-Pro, this flick is a return to his usual over-the-top, mostly inappropriate comedy.

Brennan (Ferrell) and Dale (John C. Reilly) are two grown men still living at home; when their parents get married, they become step-brothers, and of course hate each other with a passion. As they spend more time together, the hatred simply grows, to the point that there is an all-out brawl between them, so their coddling parents finally begin to take a tough stance on them getting their act together as adults. The two are then united in a mutual distaste for Brennan’s perfectionist brother Derek, and when Dale stands up to him, the pair realize they just might not be so different and suddenly become best friends. Through their friendship, we are initially led to believe they might actually be able to become dependant upon each other to bring themselves into their adult lives, but unfortunately they only end up encouraging continued irresponsibility and immaturity in each other.

The film went a little too far to make absolutely sure we know they are gown men;  Brennan’s mom (Mary Steenburgen) says as much no fewer than three times in the first 10 minutes. Meanwhile, Ferrell plays his character as if he is a grown man playing a whiny six-year-old for the first 30 minutes or so. On the other hand, Reilly actually does a great job at being a believable deadbeat son with no ambition.  Halfway though the movie, they actually SWITCH; Ferrell becomes the grown deadbeat, while Reilly just keeps getting sillier. I can’t help but think they planned this for some reason, but it escapes me as to why.

As is typical for both Ferrell and producer Judd Apatow, the comedy never reaches much above junior-high-school-level toilet humor, with the occasional (and extremely un-subtle) sexual reference thrown in to raise the rating. It’s a pretty random grab bag of jokes, but every time the movie started to drag, a one-liner would come out of nowhere and have me laughing out loud.

For me, this was no Talladega Nights or even Blades of Glory, both of which left me rolling on the floor, but it was at least a somewhat enjoyable return to what Ferrell does best.  And the funny thing is, my favorite part of this movie wasn’t even the comedy; I actually found the satire of modern parenting, leading to spoiled and dependant children, to be the greatest part – the comment from Brennan’s psychiatrist in the last few minutes, “you are an enabler!”, so fitting. That is what I generally find so refreshing about Will Ferrell’s movies, he really enjoys thumbing his nose at people in his stories, and he proves here that he still knows how.

2 ½ / 5 stars

 
 

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