As I've noted quite often there's a fine art to making dumb comedy work. Movies such as "Dodgeball," "Blades of Glory," "Walk Hard," and the "Citizen Kane" of Dumb Comedy, "Pootie Tang," took a lot more skill to pull off than meets the eye. And each of them makes me laugh myself silly. Of course do dumb comedy wrong and you could end up with "Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector." Happily "Step Brothers" is no "Larry." Still, it's no "Citizen Tang" either.
"Step Brothers" tells the tale of Brennan Huff (Will Ferrell) and Dale Doback (John C. Reilly), two middle-aged men who never grew up, and who end up sharing a bedroom when their parents get married. Brennan's mom Nancy (Mary Steenburgen) and Dale's dad Robert (Richard Jenkins) have each been able to put up with one slacker, sleepwalking son, but two proves too many. It doesn't help that the guys hate each other. After a series of childish shenanigans in which the boys almost kill each other, the parents decide Brennan and Dale are going to get jobs and get out. Finally, the pair bonds when Dale punches Brennan's overachieving brother Derek (Adam Scott) in the face, which Brennan has clearly wanted to do for a long time. Unfortunately for Nancy and Robert, the guys becoming best friends only exacerbates things.
Ferrell co-wrote the screenplay with director Adam McKay ("Anchorman," "Talladega Nights"). Like those films, "Step Brothers" is a movie where a whole lot of gags are thrown at the wall. Fewer things stick in this movie than in the previous ones. As the title characters Ferrell and Reilly play off each other well but the man child bit gets annoying more often than I would have hoped. A few times I found myself sympathizing with Jenkins' character, who nearly gets the whole family into a collision reaching for the backseat to throttle the boys. Jenkins gives a funny performance in what could have been a thankless role. The real standout is Scott as the smug Derek. He's made brief but memorable appearances in "Knocked Up," an episode of "Veronica Mars," and has a hilarious scene in the unfairly maligned "Art School Confidential." He really gets a chance to shine here and is easily the best thing in the whole movie.
This is not amongst Ferrell's better efforts, though it certainly towers over "Semi-Pro." Reilly, in my opinion, is one of the most versatile actors on the planet, and also one of the funniest. He's fine here but he's done better things and most definitely will again in the future. Also, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Jon Brion's music. It's subtle, but as always, Brion does a terrific job.
It's not consistent by any stretch and enough things hit that it's worth watching a matinee if you're interested. 6.5/10.