By Michael Phillips (Chicago Tribune Film Critic)
The feature itself, co-written by Ferrell and director Adam McKay, is more hit and miss and come and go and now and then, coasting on its stars' schlub-a-dub chemistry.
The setup: Ferrell plays Brennan, 39 and living with mom (Mary Steenburgen, sweetly tolerant of her surly offspring). Reilly is Dale, 40, still at home with dad (Richard Jenkins). The parents meet, fall in love, and suddenly you have a blended-family situation of extreme volatility (injurious pranks take up a good deal of screen time) followed by extreme bonding. The scene of Brennan and Dale realizing they have a few things in common is a highlight, particularly for the way Reilly's character, who's deeply into Chewbacca and fantasy baseball, says "Yup!" after an excited but poker-faced Ferrell asks him, "Did we just become best friends?"
That's what you remember a day or two later -- the ants-in-the-pants urgency behind each new project undertaken by these boy-men (such as turning their beds into bunk beds, with grim results). The film is simply a collection of scenes with a tiny bit of a plot, involving Brennan's heinous younger brother (Adam Scott) and his lustful wife (Kathryn Hahn), who has a fling with the wide-eyed Dale.
The trick to the Men II Boyz comic genre -- where grown men are simply older, pudgier versions of their teen selves, struggling to find their place in the world -- is to find the surprises and payoffs within the Peter Pan syndrome. This is why "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" and "Knocked Up" worked so well. The jokes came and went quickly, usually without a lot of laborious preparation, and you went with the socially retarded flow of things. Another hit overseen by arrested-development comic impresario Judd Apatow, "Superbad," looked at actual teenagers desperate for their adult lives (and sexual lives) to begin, yet terrified of the unknown. The guyness of the humor was unapologetic; so was the underlying sweetness, made funnier by the surrounding raunch.
Up against those films, the Apatow-produced "Step Brothers" seems bland. Still, I laughed a few times -- more often, in fact, than I laughed at "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby," in which McKay first paired Ferrell and Reilly. Next time, though, it's time for a change-up. I'm not saying Shakespeare. I'm just saying, enough with the 40-year-old teenagers for a while.
Director: Adam McKay
Starring: Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Richard Jenkins, Mary Steenburgen
Rating: R - pervasive language, crude and sexual content
Time: 98 min.
About "Step Brothers" Movie
Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly, who last teamed in the box-office smash Talladega Nights: The Ballad of
Ricky Bobby, now star in Step Brothers, directed by Adam McKay (Talladega Nights, Anchorman: The Legend
of Ron Burgundy).
In Step Brothers, Ferrell plays Brennan Huff, a sporadically employed thirty-nine-year-old who lives
with his mother, Nancy (Mary Steenburgen). Reilly plays Dale Doback, a terminally unemployed forty-year-old
who lives with his father, Robert (Richard Jenkins).
When Robert and Nancy marry and move in together, Brennan and Dale are forced to live with each other as
step brothers. As their narcissism and downright laziness threaten to tear the "new" family apart, these
two middle-aged, immature, overgrown boys will orchestrate an insane, elaborate plan to bring their parents
back together. To pull it off, they must form an unlikely bond that maybe, just maybe, will finally get them
out of the house.
Columbia Pictures presents, in association with Relativity Media, an Apatow Company / Mosaic Media Group /
Gary Sanchez production, a film by Adam McKay, Step Brothers. The film stars Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly,
Richard Jenkins, Mary Steenburgen, Adam Scott, and Kathryn Hahn. Directed by Adam McKay. Produced by Jimmy
Miller and Judd Apatow. Screenplay by Will Ferrell & Adam McKay, from a story by Will Ferrell & Adam McKay &
John C. Reilly. Executive producers are Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, and David Householter. Director of
Photography is Oliver Wood. Production Designer is Clayton Hartley. Editor is Brent White. Costume
Designer is Susan Matheson. Music by Jon Brion. Music Supervision is by Hal Willner.
About the Cast
WILL FERRELL (Brennan Huff) has come a long way
since his days on "Saturday Night Live," crossing over from television icon to motion picture star
shortly after joining the "SNL" cast in 1995.
Will Ferrell most recently starred in Semi-Pro, the story of a 1970s-era ABA team trying to earn its way into the NBA, opposite Woody Harrelson and Andre Benjamin for director Kent Alterman. Prior to that, in 2007, he starred in the comedy hit Blades of Glory with Jon Heder. The film took in over $118 million at the box office.
In 2006, Ferrell demonstrated that his dramatic gifts equal his comedic talents, earning his second Golden Globe nomination (Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical) for his portrayal of IRS agent Harold Crick in Stranger than Fiction, starring opposite Emma Thompson, Dustin Hoffman, Queen Latifah and Maggie Gyllenhaal for director Marc Forster.
Earlier that year, Ferrell starred in the hit comedy Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, with co-stars John C. Reilly and Sacha Baron Cohen. Earning nearly $150 million at the U.S. box office, the film became the season's #1 comedy (non-animated) and set records on DVD.
In the summer of 2004, Will Ferrell starred in the comedy Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy for DreamWorks Pictures, which grossed over $85 million domestically. Ferrell co-wrote the script with "SNL" writer Adam McKay. Judd Apatow ("Freaks and Geeks") produced, with David O. Russell (Three Kings) executive producing. Ferrell portrayed Ron Burgundy, a 1970s anchorman with an inflated ego threatened by the arrival of an ambitious female newscaster who, unlike him, has mastered journalism.
Ferrell completed his seventh and final season on the legendary NBC late-night hit "Saturday Night Live" in 2002, having taken the nation by storm during "Indecision 2000" by impersonating George W. Bush on the show. Some of his most memorable "SNL" characters include Craig the Spartan Cheerleader, musical middle school teacher Marty Culp, and Tom Wilkins, the hyperactive co-host of "Morning Latte." Among his many impressions are Janet Reno, Alex Trebek, Neil Diamond, and the late, great Chicago Cubs sportscaster Harry Caray. His work on "SNL" earned two Emmy nominations in 2001 (Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program and Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music, or Comedy Program).
Previous film credits include Zoolander, Elf, the Woody Allen feature Melinda and Melinda, the comedies Bewitched and Old School, and the screen adaptation of The Producers, which earned Ferrell his first Golden Globe nomination in 2006 for Best Supporting Actor. He recently wrapped production on his next feature film, Universal's Land of the Lost.
Raised in Irvine, California, Ferrell attended USC and graduated with a degree in sports information. Upon graduation, he worked as a sportscaster on a weekly show broadcast over a local cable channel. Soon after, he enrolled in acting classes and stand-up comedy workshops at a nearby community college and was eventually asked to join the esteemed comedy/improv group The Groundlings after just one year of training. It was at The Groundlings that Ferrell was discovered for "Saturday Night Live."
JOHN C. REILLY (Dale Doback) nominated for an Academy AwardŽ and a Golden GlobeŽ for his work in the hit musical
Chicago, has garnered a reputation as an actor with great range. He most recently starred in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, for which he was honored with a Golden GlobeŽ nomination; in addition, he received another nomination for co-writing the title song.
Born in Chicago and raised as the fifth of six children in an Irish-Lithuanian family, Reilly studied at the Goodman School of Drama. Later, he became a member of Chicago's renowned Steppenwolf Theatre.
Reilly's first film role came in a 1989 Brian De Palma motion picture, Casualties of War. That was followed by appearances in a wide array of films, including Days of Thunder, Shadows and Fog, We're No Angels, What's Eating Gilbert Grape, Hoffa, Georgia, Dolores Claiborne, and The River Wild.
As a regular in director Paul Thomas Anderson's films, Reilly began attracting attention for his roles in Hard Eight, Boogie Nights, and Magnolia. He also starred in Terrence Malick's The Thin Red Line.
In 2002, Reilly scored well with audiences and critics with acclaimed performances in a number of high-profile films, including The Hours, The Good Girl, Gangs of New York, and Chicago.
His recent film credits include Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, A Prairie Home Companion, Dark Water, The Aviator, and Criminal. Other films include The Perfect Storm, For Love of the Game, and Never Been Kissed.
For the stage, Reilly starred on Broadway in "The Grapes of Wrath." He also starred in "A Streetcar Named Desire" and "Othello" at the Steppenwolf and earned an Outer Circle Critics Award and a Tony nomination for his role in "True West."
RICHARD JENKINS (Robert Doback) is one of the most in-demand character actors in Hollywood, having made over 50 feature films.
Jenkins can currently be seen as Walter Vale, a disillusioned Connecticut economics professor whose life is transformed by a chance encounter in New York City, in Thomas McCarthy's The Visitor. The film premiered to rave reviews at the 2007 Toronto Film Festival and the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. For his critically acclaimed performance, Richard was honored with the John Garfield Award for Best Actor at the 2008 Method Fest independent film festival, as well as with a Career Achievement Award.
In 1997, Jenkins received an Independent Spirit Award nomination as Best Supporting Male for his performance in David O. Russell's comedy Flirting with Disaster, appearing with Ben Stiller, Tea Leoni, Josh Brolin, and Lily Tomlin.
In 1986, Jenkins had his first starring film role in OscarŽ-winning writer Horton Foote's On Valentine's Day. Numerous film roles followed, including George Miller's The Witches of Eastwick, opposite Jack Nicholson, Susan Sarandon, Cher and Michelle Pfeiffer; Richard Benjamin's Little Nikita, opposite River Phoenix and Sidney Poitier; Sea of Love, with Al Pacino and Ellen Barkin; Mike Nichols' Wolf, appearing again with Jack Nicholson; with Charlize Theron in 2005's North Country; opposite Jim Carrey and again with Tea Leoni in the comedy Fun with Dick and Jane, co-written by Judd Apatow; and in Peter Berg's 2007 film, The Kingdom.
Over the years, Jenkins has worked with such esteemed filmmakers as Clint Eastwood in Absolute Power; the Farrelly brothers in There's Something About Mary and Me, Myself & Irene, opposite Jim Carrey; and Sydney Pollack in Random Hearts, opposite Harrison Ford and Kristin Scott Thomas.
In 2001, Jenkins began a collaboration with Joel and Ethan Coen when he appeared with Billy Bob Thornton, James Gandolfini and Scarlett Johansson in The Man Who Wasn't There. He went on to work again with the Coen brothers in 2003's Intolerable Cruelty, opposite George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
On television, Jenkins is best remembered as Nathaniel, the deceased patriarch of the Fisher family on HBO's immensely successful drama, "Six Feet Under." His occasional appearances as the heart of this often-dysfunctional family helped earn the cast a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination in 2002 for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series. He also appeared in numerous made-for-television films, including "Sins of the Father" and the Emmy-winning HBO film, "And the Band Played On."
In theater, Richard has amassed an impressive list of credits as a company member for 14 years at Rhode Island's Trinity Repertory Company and served an additional four years as its Artistic Director.
Later this year, Jenkins will be seen in his third film with the Coens, Burn After Reading, which stars George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and John Malkovich. Focus Features plans to release the film in September 2008.
MARY STEENBURGEN (Nancy Huff) won an Academy AwardŽ for her role in Melvin and Howard. She recently wrapped production on Open Roads, starring Jeff Bridges and Justin Timberlake. Steenburgen also recently finished her work on Four Christmases, starting Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn. She was last seen in The Brave One, starring Jodie Foster and Terrence Howard and directed by Neil Jordan. In 2006, she shot Nobel Son, starring opposite Alan Rickman and Bill Pullman. She also starred for two seasons on the Emmy-nominated CBS series, "Joan of Arcadia."
In February 2006, Steenburgen starred in the David Mamet directed play "Boston Marriage" at The Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles. She was seen co-starring in the independent feature Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing and Charm School. In 2003, she was seen in the CBS television film "It Must Be Love," co-starring her husband, Ted Danson. Steenburgen also co-starred in New Line Cinema's Elf, alongside Will Ferrell and James Caan. She has appeared in two films for director John Sayles, Sunshine State and Casa De Los Babys.
In 2002, Steenburgen was seen starring with Danson in a CBS television miniseries entitled "Talking to Heaven." They had previously worked together in 1996 on the critically acclaimed NBC miniseries "Gulliver's Travels" and in the 1994 feature film Pontiac Moon. In 2001, Steenburgen appeared alongside Kevin Kline in Irwin Winkler's Life as a House, which had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. She has constantly redefined herself through challenging roles in films such as Philadelphia, Parenthood and What's Eating Gilbert Grape.
Steenburgen starred with Jon Voight and F. Murray Abraham in Robert Halmi's "Noah's Ark" for NBC and was also nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award for her role in "About Sarah," a two-hour made-for-television movie for CBS in which she played a developmentally disabled adult.
Other films from Steenburgen's career include The Grass Harp, with Walter Matthau, Jack Lemmon, and Piper Laurie; Back to the Future III, Time After Time, A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy, Cross Creek, One Magic Christmas, Dead of Winter, and End of the Line, in which she also served as the film's executive producer.
Steenburgen's career on the stage includes starring roles in "The Beginning of August," "Holiday," George Bernard Shaw's production of "Candida" at New York's Roundabout Theater, and, most recently, "Marvin's Room" at the Tiffany Theater in Los Angeles.
In addition to her professional work, Steenburgen has devoted a great deal of time to causes close to her heart. In 1989, she and fellow actress Alfre Woodard founded Artists for a Free South Africa and in 1996, Steenburgen and Danson were presented with Liberty Hill Foundation's prestigious Upton Sinclair Award for their work in human rights and environmental causes.
Steenburgen is a native of Little Rock, Arkansas, the daughter of a railroad conductor and a public high school secretary. She began her career at the age of 19 in New York. She currently lives in Los Angeles, California with her husband. They are the parents of four children: Kate, Lilly, Charlie, and Kat.
ADAM SCOTT (Derek Huff) a dynamic young actor has crafted a distinguished career in theatre and television and is quickly becoming one of the finest newcomers to hit the big screen.
Scott will soon be seen in August, a drama that centers on two brothers (Scott and Josh Hartnett) who continue to fight to keep their start-up company afloat on Wall Street during August 2001, a month before the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In addition, he recently completed production on two independent features; Lovely, Still, a holiday fable that tells the story of an elderly man discovering love for the first time, with Ellen Burstyn and Martin Landau, as well as The Vicious Kind, a dramedy about a man who becomes obsessed with the girlfriend his brother brings home for Thanksgiving.
Scott also stars in the critically acclaimed HBO series "Tell Me You Love Me" which features an ensemble cast and returns to HBO later this year.
Scott recently appeared in the blockbuster comedy Knocked Up, directed by Judd Apatow, as well as The Great Buck Howard, opposite John Malkovich. The previous year, Scott appeared in the dramatic thriller First Snow, directed by Marc Fergus and co-starring Guy Pearce; the dark comedy Corporate Affairs, alongside Breckin Meyer for director Dan Cohen; and the romantic comedy Who Loves The Sun, starring with Lukas Haas and Molly Parker for director Matthew Bissonette.
Prior to that, Scott appeared in Art School Confidential with John Malkovich and Anjelica Huston, directed by acclaimed filmmaker Terry Zwigoff, for Sony Pictures Classics. Additional feature film credits include The Return, The Matador, opposite Pierce Brosnan, Greg Kinnear, and Hope Davis, and New Line Cinema's romantic comedy, Monster-In-Law, directed by Robert Luketic and starring Jennifer Lopez and Jane Fonda. In addition, he portrayed Johnny Meyer, Howard Hughes' smarmy press agent, in Miramax's OscarŽ-winning film The Aviator, alongside Leonardo DiCaprio, Cate Blanchett, John C. Reilly and Alec Baldwin for legendary director Martin Scorsese. Scott was previously seen in the Warner Bros. action feature Torque, Carl Franklin's High Crimes, the independent black comedy Two Days, Christopher Haifley's independent film Ronnie, Star Trek: First Contact and numerous independent films including Robert Mickelson's Off the Lip, Jonathan Kahn's Girl, Ted Melfi's Winding Roads, David McKay's The Lesser Evil, Lawrence Trilling's Dinner & Driving and Derek Simonds' Seven and a Match.
In a notable two-episode stint on HBO's acclaimed "Six Feet Under," Scott played the role of Ben Dooley, a public defender and boyfriend to Michael C. Hall's character, David Fisher. Additional television credits include "Law & Order," "Veronica Mars," Ken Cameron's "Payback," an ABC movie-of-the-week with Mary Tyler Moore and Ed Asner, "Wasteland," "Party of Five," "Murder One," "NYPD Blue," and "E.R."
Stage credits include roles in "Uncle Bob," a two-man show with Austin Pendleton in Los Angeles, New York and Edinburgh; Richard Greenberg's "Everett Beekin" for South Coast Repertory; "Romeo and Juliet" at the California Shakespeare Festival in Berkeley; "Dealer's Choice" and "Buffalo Hunters" for The Mark Taper Forum; "Beirut" for Gardner Stage; "Water and Wine" for the Met Theatre; and "Bloody Poetry" for the Globe Theatre.
KATHRYN HAHN (Alice Huff), A natural talent with an engaging presence and undeniable energy, has made her mark through a variety of entertaining and memorable character roles. Through a number of upcoming projects, Hahn is poised to become one of Hollywood's leading actresses.
Currently, Hahn stars in her Broadway debut in the Tony-winning play "Boeing-Boeing" alongside Bradley Whitford, Gina Gershon, Mary McCormack, and Christine Baranski. Boeing-Boeing won the 2008 Tony in the category of "Best Revival of a Play."
Additionally, she will appear in Sam Mendes' next film, Revolutionary Road. The film centers around a young couple, played by Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio, living in a Connecticut suburb during the mid-1950s. Kathryn plays Milly Campbell, the couple's neighbor. Paramount Vantage will release the film December 26, 2008.
Also upcoming, Hahn co-stars in The Goods: The Don Ready Story, directed by Neal Brennan. The film revolves around salesman Don Ready (Jeremy Piven) and his crew who are asked to help save an ailing local car dealership from bankruptcy. Paramount Vantage will open the film February 27, 2009.