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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Step Brothers

Testosterone: Men swear by it and women swear at it, thus has been the history of the world for centuries. It’s been testosterone that has given us razor stubble left in the bathroom sink, countless wars around the world, the Clapper, the need for checking in the middle of the night to see if the toilet seat is up or down, and, of course, cinematic treasures like Step Brothers.

Okay, so maybe my Estrogen is failing me in my menopausal mania, but I actually liked
Step Brothers. I went to the Essex Cinemas a few days ago and settled into my seat, surrounded by a theater full of men, including the always charming Austin Whitaker, who will soon be moving across the Lake to become manager of the brand new Cumberland 12 Cinemas. He’s been working at the Essex Cinemas for over six years now, and he will definitely be missed here, but he’s the perfect choice to head up this latest operation in Plattsburgh so who can blame him for taking the opportunity when it was offered. Still, just thinking about Austin leaving put me in a downer, so I needed a few laughs, but I didn’t expect I’d end up laughing out loud more than any of the guys at the lowbrow humor in this second collaboration between Will Ferrell (Semi-Pro) and John C. Reilly (Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story).

The duo from Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby are back and twice as dumb in this comedy that will have you convinced that some time when both were babies they must have been dropped on their heads a few times too many because, let’s face it, these boys ain’t right. Ferrell plays Brennan Huff, a 40-year-old former PetSmart employee (“I wasn’t fired! I was laid off!”) who has never left home and still lives with his overprotective (you think?) mother, Nancy (Mary Steenburgen; The Brave One). Reilly plays Dale Doback, about to turn 40, and, like Brennan, he still lives at home, but with his father, Robert (Richard Jenkins; The Visitor).

You don’t have to sing the theme from “The Brady Bunch” to guess where this is headed as Nancy
and Richard get married and suddenly everyone is living together, a horror story for the two man-children who have always been the center of their individual parent’s universe. Worse yet, Dale and Brennan have to share a bedroom. Well, worse for them, but that’s where the best laughs are mined in the childish antics these two threaten one another with and dream up while in their jammies.

These “kids” may act like they are seven or eight, but they both have mouths on them that would make a sailor blush, so if you wonder why there’s an ‘R’ rating on
Step Brothers, that’s why. Well that and a few other things. There is one scene in which Brennan decides to desecrate Dale’s beloved (and off-limits) drum set in his “office” so Brennan… well, I won’t go there except to say that if you ever invite Will Ferrell to a tea party I’m sure he’d be happy to bring all the tea bags you’ll ever want to see and then some.

The movie does lose some of its steam about halfway through when the boys realize they are soul-mates at heart and it is in their interest to work together in retaliation against Brennan’s wormy younger brother, Derek (Adam Scott; Knocked Up), a hugely successful businessman with a trophy wife and two Aryan Nation children. His visits to mom seem as much to torment “the losers” as to see his mother and step-father. Personally, I liked Derek. He was a complete dillweed, but he did it with panache, and that’s what it’s all about. How else can you explain Simon Cowell’s career? What Derek doesn’t know is that because of something Dale does, trophy wife Alice (Kathryn Hahn; tv’s “Crossing Jordan”) goes meshuge for Dale and becomes way more infatuated with him than with her hubby. What Alice doesn’t know is that she is dealing with a ‘real’ life 40 Year Old Virgin. What a mess this little stalkarama turns into, but I won’t spoil the fun for you. You are going to want to see how that turns out for yourself.

There are no surprises in the fact that Ferrell and Reilly can make people laugh. They both have a
track record in that department. Other than being married to Ted Danson and appearing on “Joan of Arcadia”, Mary Steenburgen isn’t exactly a comedian. It’s a stretch to envision her as Ferrell’s mother (she’s only 14 years older than him), but she isn’t required to do much here except look exasperated and constantly frustrated by the three men in her life. In other words, she’s the straight man in this scenario. The big revelation is how wildly funny Richard Jenkins can be. Most people will remember him as “Nathaniel Fisher,” the deceased patriarch of “Six Feet Under.” Sure, that hit series expertly juggled both comedy and drama, but since Jenkins was only a figment of the other characters’ imaginations, their consciences as it were, he presented his lines with the most deadpan of delivery, which, being dead, seemed most appropriate at the time. Here, he breaks loose, and I found his slow burn and eventual eruption at the foolishness and mayhem going on with these two boys/men the greatest scenes in the picture.

Be prepared; the movie is full of vulgarity, foul language, a bit of nudity (male and female), and outrageous behavior. In other words, every teenager in America will be flocking to see it and every parent over 45 will be cringing at the thought of this happening to them. Don’t worry, I have a solution and it personally worked for me and my perfect hubby: unlike the parents in Step Brothers, when you send your kid off to college, make sure it is out of state, and then move. That’s what my perfect husband and I did. Oh, we eventually told our son which state we moved to, and once he finishes graduate school and gets his own place and a fulltime job we may even break down and give him our actual street address, especially since we only have a one bedroom place now. Trust me. It’s better than having a 40 year old nitwit living in your spare room.

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