Will Ferrell is an actor who can be uproariously funny. The problem is that he can also be terribly unfunny. When entering into a Will Ferrell movie, there is no way to know which version of Ferrell you are going to get. The trailers always tend to look good, but then that is what a trailer exists for, to make the movies they are advertising look good. To its credit, Step Brothers looked hilarious from the start, to the point that I had friends already quoting the movie based just on what was in the trailer.
The only hope that I had going in was that it had to be better than Semi-Pro. Of course, that would seem to be an easy task when you consider just how bad and unfunny that excursion was. I have to think that Ferrell's mining of sports for comedy has to be nearing an end. On top of that, I also believe that sooner rather than later Will Ferrell is going to need to diversify a bit more in the roles he takes, but that's a discussion for another time.
The concept behind Step Brothers is a good one, or at least it has much potential for comedy. Bigger than the concept's potential, this movie has a lot going for it. First off, there is the obvious hope that Will Ferrell is on his game, a fact heightened by the presence of John C. Reilly. This pair showed they had great comedic chemistry a few years back in Talladega Nights.
Reilly has proven himself adept at whatever challenges are placed in his way, be it drama (The Thin Red Line, The Hours, Gangs of New York), musicals (Oscar nominated for Chicago), or comedy (Talladega Nights, Walk Hard). He brings a wealth of experience in other genres to comedy. The movie also features director and co-writer Adam McKay, who previously worked on successful Ferrell flicks Anchorman and Talladega Nights. All told, this team has been proven to work well together and there is no reason to believe this would not be another success. And let's not forget the presence of comedy's King Midas, Judd Apatow serving as producer.
The movie has two forty-year-olds living with their respective single parents. Brennan Huff (Ferrell) lives with his mother, Nancy (Mary Steenburgen). A recently unemployed retail worker, Brennan spends his time watching television and being, well, an adult child. On the other side of town (maybe?) is Dale Doback, living with his father Robert (Richard Jenkins). Like Brennan, he spends his days doing a whole lot of nothing. Together they are the two most irresponsible, going nowhere fast guys that you are likely to meet, a condition that is exacerbated when Nancy and Robert meet, fall in love, marry, and put their kids in the same bedroom. The situation is about to become combustible.
That is the entire setup of the movie, and that is its biggest fault. As a concept it is great, as a fleshed out movie, it does not quite work. That is not to say the movie is not funny or not enjoyable, but as for a strong narrative, there isn't one. The arc has the two step-brothers getting into heated competition with each other, followed by the realization of how alike they are, but not soon enough to help the bigger picture of the family, followed by a climax that sees them moving on from their childish ways, somewhat.
Step Brothers is a movie that does not exist to tell a story. The main purpose behind this flick is to see just how much vulgarity can be crammed in, how many goofball situations can they get these two into, and just how shocking can it be for their respective parents before they blow a gasket.
When it comes right down to it, as unbelievable as the situation becomes, as their parents' reactions defy any sort of logic, as downright mean as this movie gets, Step Brothers is hilarious. A lot of laughs are of the "I can't believe they did that" variety, but that takes away none of the laugh factor. I laughed over and over again, out loud no less. This is a funny flick, period.
Bottom line. This is a movie that you are either going to love or hate. I have reason to go either way, thus pushing my rating towards the middle. The utter hilarity pushes it up while the lack of a decent narrative holds it down. Still, you could do much worse and would be hard pressed for a bigger laugher currently on the big screen.