August 29, 2008

KEEPING IT IN THE FAMILY ; GRANT LAUCHLAN’s MOVIE REVIEWS Ferrell and Reilly Shine in Tale Ofbrotherly Love THE STEP BROTHERS *** 15


ANOTHER week and another comedy from Hollywood golden boy Judd Apatow. If he were making pop music, he'd be the movie equivalent of Stock, Aitken and Waterman.

Since last summer's smash hit Knocked Up, he's released six movies, with another, Pineapple Express, due for release next month. But with quantity are we getting quality?

Well if Step Brothers is anything to go by, then yes, and no.

Apatow's movies are irreverent and absurd, but oddly, considering how gross they can be, they are quite morally grounded in a weird big-hearted sort of way.

This one, penned by Ferrell and the film's director Adam McKay, is classic Apatow.

The laughs come from shock tactics rather than clever comedy, but I have to admit some of the gags appealed to my juvenile sense of humour.

Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly play Brennan and Dale, two spoiled 40-year old men still living at home with their respective single parents - Brennan (Ferrell) with his mum (Mary Steenburgen) and Dale (Reilly) with his dad (Richard Jenkins).

When their folks meet and decide to get married, they are forced to share a room. They hate each other and their sibling rivalries raise all sorts of funny gags and gross-out comedy.

Eventually, the pair find a common bond - Brennan's successful smug younger brother, Derek (Adam Scott) who they both loathe.

Derek lords his success over the pair and when Dale punches him in the face one night, the "brothers" become the best of buddies. But their new-found respect for each other makes them just as daft and destructive as ever, especially when they sleepwalk.

Eventually their deviant behaviour forces their parents apart, an event which acts as a wake up call.

Ultimately, of course, the brothers do redeem themselves and there's a message about taking responsibility and growing up - to a degree.

The laughs are built around a barrage of comic skits, visual gags and a lot of crass stupidity. Step Brothers never depends on a plot to hold our attention, it's a vehicle for the talents and buffoonery of two fully-grown men, who basically act likepetulant 10-year-old brats.

The script plays to Will Ferrell's strengths, but John C. Reilly is just as good as his witless cohort.

Credit also goes to the excellent Jenkins and Steenburgen as their wearisome parents. Jenkins - famous as the dead dad in Six Feet Under - offers some of the film's best one-liners.

Certainly it's a one-joke movie and the joke eventually wears a bit thin. It's not as good as Anchorman or Talladega Nights, but everyone seems to be having fun along the way, and that includes us.

It seems Apatow has done it again, but only just.

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