Like other Adam McKay / Will Ferrell collaborations (Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby),Step Brothers is not so much a movie driven by plot, but rather a film based on a big concept tailor made for stars Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly, the end result a mostly funny yet constantly crass comedy.
Ferrell stars as Brennan; Reilly as Dale. Both are disturbing man-children aged 40 going on 13, who love their samurai swords, and their Chewbacca masks.
The pair had been living a life of domestic bliss, until their single parents Nancy and Robert (Mary Steenburgen and Richard Jenkins, respectively) fall in love and marry. As soon as the new step brothers meet conflict arises, as the two try to outwit (and term used loosely) each other into submission, cue a hilarious back and forth which culminates in a fight to the death on the front lawn.
When Nancy and Robert declare that they wish to fulfil their dreams of retired marital heaven, the only way to go about doing so is by forcing their freeloading sons out into the world. Retirement plans are enhanced even further from the urging of Brennan’s wanker older brother (played to slime ball perfection by Adam Scott). Brennan and Dale put aside their differences and form an alliance to stop from getting thrown out into the streets.
Ferrell, Reilly, and McKay load everything and anything they can get their hands on in the comedy canon and fire at will. Most of the time they hit their targets, but when they miss the results are glaring, and this comes down to some poor post production work in the editing room.
Numerous gags are way too long, whilst others stick out due to their vulgarity, namely Kathryn Hahn’s way too descriptive fantasies towards John C. Reilly, and Will Ferrell’s use a prosthetic scrotum which he affectionately refers to as his “stunt nuts”. How viewers will react to these scenes – and others – depends entirely upon their approach to gross out humour. This critic found it interesting that when McKay and Ferrell are given free reign, whilst targeting a MA rated film, the results are less funny when compared to the restrictions of the PG rated Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby.
What does work extremely well is the interplay between Ferrell and Reilly. Both actors suit each other in both look and style, and have great chemistry. Supporting performances by Richard Jenkins (who is having a career year), and Mary Masterson are surprisingly effective, and both hold up well to their scene stealing leading men. Also, watch out for a cameo by Seth Rogen.
So what it really comes down to is how viewers will take too this particular brand of crudeness. Fans of Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby will find the film to be an entertaining watch. But for others Step Brothers may be too rough a comedy to warm up to.