September 21, 2008

Comedy Dreadfully Out of Step

By GATES, Charlie

Step Brothers (R16) Directed by Adam McKay * * Reviewed by Charlie Gates


Step Brothers has no lack of comic talent, but a major shortage of charisma and laughs.

I wanted to like this film and had high hopes, but was disappointed.

On paper it should work. You have the obvious comic talents of Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly, the director of Anchorman, and the backing of Judd Apatow, the creative powerhouse behind a string of comedy hits such as The 40-year-old Virgin, Knocked Up, Tallageda Nights and Superbad. But it just does not work.

It feels off-kilter, puzzling and strange. The comic timing is out, it is poorly staged and nothing feels convincing or natural.

It is a perplexing and unsettling attempt to cross a big, broad family comedy with the strong language and vulgar gags of previous Apatow hits such as The 40 Year Old Virgin. But where that film balanced the off- colour gags with genuine heart and a protagonist with a winning sense of innocence, the supposedly dramatic or emotional moments in Step Brothers feel utterly false.

The naivety of the two central characters does not win you over as it should. It just feels strange and uncomfortable.

Even the comedy, which, with Ferrell on the screen, you would expect to be funny, feels rambling and undisciplined, as though strange jokes are just thrown at the screen to see if they stick. There are a few chuckles and maybe one or two laughs, but certainly not enough, and most are strained through an uncomfortable grimace.

Actually, there is only one gag in Step Brothers - a gag that is hammered into the ground like a tent peg.

Brennan Huff (Will Ferrell) and Dale Doback (Reilly) might both be about 40 years old, but they behave exactly like eight-year- olds. Um, that is the joke.

Huff's divorced mother marries Doback's widowed father, turning the odd pair of geeky losers who still live at home into, you guessed it, stepbrothers. At first, like territorial children, they hate each other, but they soon start to get along once they realise how much they have in common.

It all wears a little thin after an hour, before it lurches uncomfortably into a half-baked and totally undeserved moral about being true to your inner child. It is not as funny and lovable as other Ferrell comedies, such as Anchorman or Elf, and it lacks the heart of previous films from the prolific Apatow.

I would recommend you give Step Brothers a miss and instead watch the very funny and carefully edited trailer for the film. You get all the best gags, but, at just four minutes long, you save 94 minutes of your life.


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