by Laura Tucker
“Families is where our nation finds hope, where wings take dream. ” — President George W. Bush
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Step Brothers starts out with this quote, and it’s actually very apropos. Not just the message President Bush was trying to relay but the inappropriate use of bad grammar. Step Brothers is about families sticking together always, no matter how inappropriate they may be.
Mary Steenburgen and Richard Jenkins star as Nancy Huff and Dr. Robert Doback, two older adults who meet while Robert is giving a lecture. In what seems like minutes, the two are stripping each others’ clothes off and racing to a bed while they lead quick introductions of themselves. During the introductions, they realize their bond, that each of them has a son in his late 30s living at home. Robert’s son, Dale (John C. Reilly), is living at home after quitting college to join the “the family business” of medicine some 15 years ago, and Brennan (Will Ferrell) just got let go from his job at Pet Smart.
Nancy and Robert marry, much to the chagrin of their sons, becoming a blended family. Nancy and Brennan move into the Doback house, forcing their two sons to share a bedroom. Neither of them is happy about the situation, and they sit at their first dinner together, reminding me of my 15-year-old son as they’re slurping their food and making the ketchup do farting noises.
The two boys can’t get along at all, as Dale paints “I ♥ crystal meth” on the back of Brennan’s T-shirt, and Brennan paints a gaping bloody scar on Dale in his sleep. They exchange the worst of comments with each other, with Dale threading to put a rat trap between Brennan’s legs while he’s sleeping, and Brennan threatening to fill his pillowcase up with bars of soap and beat the shit out of Dale.
After a particularly bad blowup between the boys, Nancy lays down the law in a moment where it seems shocking somewhat to see Steenburgen dropping the F-bomb. She and Robert give the boys a month to find jobs before they will be kicked out of the house.
Yet, it takes their joint hatred of Brennan’s real brother Derek to cause Brennan and Dale to finally bond. Derek is extremely successful in the field of helicopter leasing, bragging at one point about being at a party with Mark Cuban, Bobby Flay, Chris Daughtry, and Jeff Probst. He picked on Brennan terribly when they were younger, getting everyone to tease him that he had a “mangina,” and now is one of those annoying dads that leads car sing alongs with his wife and two kids through a mellow version of Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child o’ Mine.”
This was not a movie I was expecting to enjoy very much, being dragged by my teenage son. I was expecting that all the funny parts had already been in the commercials that I had seen over and over, and that the rest would be extremely sophomoric. This is Will Ferrell, though, and he never fails to make me laugh, whether he’s playing a cheerleader on Saturday Night Live, playing a figure skater or giving his toddler landlord a list of excuses.
The laughs in Step Brothers come easily, no matter how inappropriate they are. In their first bit of male bonding, the boys realize that both of them consider Good Housekeeping their favorite inappropriate magazine to masturbate to, and John Stamos is the guy they’d want to sleep with, if they were girls. Listening to Brennan sing for the first time, Dale tells him he has the voice of an angel, like Fergie meets Jesus.
The ending had me afraid, as for a few minutes it seemed like he were headed towards one of those endings like in Stripes or Private Benjamin, where it’s really the second half of the movie, and it seems to suddenly get a heart and lose its humor, but it quickly recovered, thankfully. The families may be filled with hope and may still have dreams, but they’re still inappropriate with themselves and each other.
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