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'Step Brothers' is funny enough--but the duo of Ferrell and Reilly can do better

Step Brothers has no real plot, and it generally beats a one-joke premise to death.

Normally, this would be the start of a negative review, but that one joke is funny and works as a fairly good setup for the comedic duo of Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly. The Talladega Nights actors (and director Adam McKay) return for their latest exercise in silliness, and while the results aren't as consistent as they were in Talladega, they're still funny.

Ferrell and Reilly play Brennan and Dale, two men reaching 40 who still live with their single parents. The cantankerous Brennan lives with his mom (Mary Steenburgen) while the irritable Dale resides with his dad (the great Richard Jenkins). Brennan and Dale become stepbrothers when their parents meet and marry after a short romance. Dale refuses to give up a room devoted to his hallowed drum set, so the two must bunk together--and infantile, ultra-vulgar hilarity ensues.

The two don't get along at the start. They threaten to kill each other in their sleep and get into a huge brawl on their front lawn, a fight during which Brennan's mom sadly witnesses her son using his bicycle as a weapon. The two kick the shit out of their house while sleepwalking, and Brennan rubs his "hairy ballsack" on Dale's drum kit. Dad gets fed up and demands that they seek jobs, which leads to a funny interview sequence in which Dale literally blows a job opportunity out of his ass.

The two end up bonding after a tree-house incident involving Brennan's bratty brother (a very funny Adam Scott), and this leads to a classic scene involving pumpkin-smashing and bunk beds. The film is still amusing while the two are getting along, but it works best when the boys are at odds, so McKay is always finding ways for the two of them to get angry again.

There is a subplot where the boys try to form some sort of strange entertainment conglomerate that involves rap videos. They show a reasonable amount of inspiration along the way, but manage to ruin dad's retirement plans when they do severe damage to some personal property. This catastrophe is actually documented in their debut video, "Boats and Hos." The aftermath gives Jenkins a chance to show his comedic chops, proving he can act out a near-nervous breakdown with the best of them.

Reilly, who until recently was primarily known as a dramatic actor, is starting to shine as a comedic star. If Ferrell is the best movie comedian when it comes to playing a man-boy, Reilly takes a close second. The two really do come off as adolescents trapped in middle-age bodies. They've done this shtick before, and I'm hoping they'll do it again. The two pretty much match each other pound for pound with laughs.

Because of Ferrell and McKay's track record (they also did Anchorman), this film came with high expectations. The movie does suffer from some dry spots and more than its fair share of clunkers, but Ferrell and Reilly manage to keep things moving forward.

If the idea of Ferrell and Reilly wrestling and having various kinds of swordfights doesn't appeal to you, and you aren't a fan of Talladega Nights, you might want to skip this. If the sight and sound of Ferrell singing "Por Ti Volare" with Reilly accompanying on drums seems appealing, then you'll probably have fun.

As for me, the duo offer up enough good humor to make the movie worthwhile--but I expect a little more out of these guys.

Step Brothers
Rated NR

More by Bob Grimm

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What others are saying (1)

Portland Mercury Super Bad Step Brothers: New brothers. Same old bullshit. by Zac Pennington 07/24/2008

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