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Rated 3.02 stars
by 387 people

ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Raunch-Com Shenanigans
by Frank Wilkins

Judd Apatow, the mastermind behind such hits as 40-Year-Old Virgin, Talladega Nights, and Superbad – brings us yet another raunch-com that follows in the same irreverent footsteps of its siblings. But while Step Brothers holds its own on the raunch-O-meter, it falls a little short in many other aspects that made the previous Apatow films so attractive. The one common trait of an Apatow film, and something that’s managed to justify the irreverence, is the presence of a big heart and genuine human feelings. We're always made to feel as if laughing at such things is acceptable if there's a good outcome, or if the characters ultimately redeem themselves… and it's no different with Step Brothers. But here the laughs come more from shock tactics than from cunning.

The plot to Step Brothers seems more like a one-joke premise, but regardless, the filmmakers -- director Adam McKay who co-writes with Will Ferrell -- surprisingly milk the most from that premise with a non-stop barrage of loose skits, funny sight gags and gross-out indulgence. Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly, who previously worked together on Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, are grown- up losers, Brennan and Dale respectively, two 40-year-old men still living at home with their parents. Brennan lives with his mother (Mary Steeenburgen), Dale with his father (Richard Jenkins). When mom and dad get married, the four move into a 2-bedroom house forcing Dale and Brennan to share a bedroom together. At first they don't get along, but eventually become best friends. The comedy comes from the slow destruction of the parents as they're finally forced to come to grips with the 40-year-old monsters they've created by years of mollycoddling. It's definitely not highbrow humor. In fact, it really shouldn't be considered on a level any higher than Junior High at best, but then again, we don't expect ponderous meaning or dovetailed subjectivity from an Apatow film, now do we?

Casting is the key to what makes the whole thing work here. Brennan and Dale are basically petulant 9-year-old brats living in grown men's bodies. And while in the hands of less "abled" actors, such brash silliness would come off as a forced chemistry experiment. But here the two pick up where they left off in Talladega Nights, somehow managing to make us laugh out loud at a couple of immature lugs who do nothing more than sit on the couch, scratch themselves and concoct ways of sabotaging a forthcoming interview. Oh, and there's a testicular sighting that should have been gross-out appalling, but instead ends up as one of the film's funnier moments.

Rounding out the cast are Brennan's brother Derek (Adam Scott) who, while more successful than Brennan, is ironically just as immature, and Derek's repressed wife (Kathryn Hahn), who, at first knowledge that Dale punched out her husband, falls tailfin over teakettle in lust for Dale. Her aggressive sexuality seems way out of place however -- almost surreal -- as do a few other scenes depicting Dale and Brennan ransacking the house as they sleepwalk in tandem.

Step Brothers comes across as a stupid, overtly absurd and raunchy comedy that hits more often than it misses. Viewers expecting subtle and crafty humor are looking in the wrong place however. Although the film’s tone is mostly purposefully mean, our love and adoration of the characters allow us to see the shenanigans as funny rather than malevolent. That’s what we've come to expect from an Apatow production, and as long as the shock and awe tactics continue to work, enjoy!

(Released by Columbia Pictures and rated “R” for crude and sexual content, and pervasive language.)

Review also posted at .

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