He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother
Starring: Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly
By Robert Patrick
Step Brothers, the second film team up between Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly, shouldn’t be a cerebral event by any means, yet I still find myself in the throes of confusion. Much like we’ve seen in the past with Talladega Nights, the advent of watching Ferrell and Reilly behave like children is pretty funny. In director Adam McKay’s newest movie, however, the two actors trade in any adult sensibilities, or practicalities for that matter, and delve even further, if you can believe it, into their now famous man child shtick. Shedding even the slightest inclinations of their respective ages altogether, Ferrell and Reilly compound their efforts to make one of the strangest comedy films ever. Both of the guys, in all of their angst driven ineptitude, even surpass Tom Hanks’ performance in Big. Instead of innocently playing with toys and emphatically hammering out chopsticks like Hanks, Ferrell and Reilly swear at each other, practice karate, and get laid without effort. All of this, if you’re familiar with the work of these actors, is a perfect venue for our players to perform their brand of physical comedy.
The movie begins when Dr. Robert Doback, who is delivering a speech of sorts in a large auditorium, falls quite publicly in love with Nancy Huff, a visitor attending Doback’s presentation. After Doback and Huff’s ill advised and vehement love making, they decide to get hitched, mostly because they find out they have so much in common, for instance they both have 38 year-old sons living at home.
Doback’s son is Dale (John C. Reilly), a spoiled, tantrum throwing aspiring drummer with the personality of a malevolent twelve year-old. Huff’s son, Brennan, on the other hand, is a spoiled, tantrum throwing aspiring singer with the personality of a malevolent twelve year-old. Their respective talents come into play later in the film, and, as I’m sure you can imagine, bring them together. But, as you probably know, I’m not ruining anything for you.
Like most children in competition, Dale and Brennan fight for the affection of their parents. Often, as you can suspect, this impromptu and childish behavior eventually gives way to disaster. In real life, you could probably expect a lamp to be knocked off a table. In Dale and Brennan’s world, you can expect someone to crash a luxury yacht and have sex with their older sibling’s wife. Pretty customary business, really.
Dale and Brennan, who eventually become friends, unintentionally wreak havoc on their parents lives in the process. Even better, Brennan’s brother, Derek, who is a braggadocios storyteller and outrageously pompous businessman, comes to visit the family, stealing away attention from the bumbling step brothers. The best part about Derek, aside from the fact that he looks suspiciously like Wes Bentley of American Beauty fame, is that he is written even more ludicrously than either one of Ferrell and Reilly’s characters. Derek yells at his family in the car for not singing well, rubs his rock hard, sculptured abdomen (an obvious cutaway shot of a double), and doesn’t know how to hug people.
This movie – please don’t tell me you’re looking for a plot twist – delivers a pretty standard comedy routine. Ferrell and Reilly don’t stray from their adlib jokes and wide eyed antics, so you can expect a lot of ill fitted t-shits and an abundance of yelping from the duo, which is what everyone wants anyway.
In Talladega Nights the guys acted like children, in Step Brothers they become children. At some point, though most of Step Brothers is rather humorous, you have to wonder which one is more consistently effective. I actually, in some scenes, felt the routine was creepy, not funny, which had me feeling a bit uncomfortable in places. All in all, though, the movie is a nice addition to Ferrell and Reilly’s expanding catalog of nonsensical mischief.