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Step Brothers

Step Brothers

Total Film

September 2008

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Director Adam McKay
Starring Will Ferrell, John C Reilly, Mary Steenburgen
Cert 15

Rating ***

This latest Apatow-produced assembly-kit comedy reunites Talladega Nights’ funnybone-scratching trio: Will Ferrell, John C Reilly and director Adam McKay. From numbskull Nascar drivers to moronic, well, take-a-wild-guess... Middle-aged Dale Doback (Reilly) and Brennan Huff (Ferrell) still live with their respective single parents. When the oldies get hitched, the loser offspring are forced to live under the same roof.

Dale and Brennan hate each other – Brennan teabags Dale’s precious drum set. Dale and Brennan like each other – Dale and Brennan have piss swordfights... The goon-duo run rampant across the pre-adult behaviour-spectrum, from lip-quivering tykes to randy teens.

How much fun you have here depends entirely on your tolerance for Ferrell/Reilly acting like whiny, emotionally stunted man-brats. For more than 100 minutes... It gets tiresome when they’re unaccompanied, as it’s the family that keeps the humour pilot-light from completely sputtering out: Richard Jenkins as Dale’s hilariously exasperated father; Mary Steenburgen as Brennan’s kind-hearted but baffled mother; and Adam Scott as his narcissistic, bullying brother (who nails some of the film’s best scenes, including conducting his model family through an a cappella rendition of Guns N’ Roses’ ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’). Talladega Nights broke Reilly as a comic revelation, but his braying shtick is starting to wear a bit thin. Sure, he’s funnier here than in Walk Hard, but you can’t help hoping that PT Anderson comes calling again soon.

Adopting the instant-gratification philosophy of its petulant protagonists, the ramshackle plot is unhindered by anything as stupid as character logic. Is that too picky? Yes, comedy always operates by its own anarchic rules. And yes, snapping two prize boneheads into super-brained business wizards does shove the story towards the finish line. But it’s also supremely lazy. You’ll laugh a ton, but you might also feel that you can have too much of a good thing.

Ferrell and Reilly attempt to reheat their Talladega chemistry with fitfully amusing  results. The step-bro squabbling reaps plenty of brillo-haired tomfoolery, but the sting of failed gags hurts.

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