Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly, who last teamed up in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, now attempt to recreate that success in Step Brothers, directed by Adam McKay. In the film, 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 egos and downright laziness threaten to tear the new family apart, these two middle-aged, immature, overgrown boys set in train an 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
Ferrell, a star with a knack for successful comedy ideas, summed the story up as: What if you actually became, at 40, the guy you thought you’d be when you were 13? And, from the parents angle, what would you do if your kids were a mess and still living at home aged 40 (a scenario many Irish households may have to contend with if the credit crunch continues….).
With producer Judd Apatow from The 40-Year Old Virgin as part of the team, the idea of overgrown kids expanded – Imagine if your kids just never really matured and never left the house, he says. I love my kids, but I really hope they grow up and move out eventually. Reilly’s character has a unique brand of self-centeredness as the son of a doctor who’s never had to work for anything – a grown man whose interests are all about the drums, sling shots, karate, and fireworks.
While Ferrell was writing the script he looked close to hand for inspiration by going home and “watching my kids react to not getting something they wanted, or a petty grievance between siblings, and that stuff definitely informed the characters.
From the early scenes where the pair are forced to share a bedroom in the new family arrangement with pouting plus whispered curses the order of the day, Ferrell and Reilly confirm comedic the promise glispsed in Talladega Nights. Eventually bonding over a porno magazine, karate moves and Steven Segal movies, the pair initially attempt to break up the marriage before eventually surrendering to the reality that they’ll have to find jobs – the point where the film moves into solid laugh country. While the supporting cast is not as expertly drawn as previous Ferrell films, Steenburgen and Jenkins are solid as late-life parents, as is Kathryn Hahn as the middle-aged wife sexually awakened by Dale, and Horatio Sanz as a beleaguered vocalist.
Step Brothers won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but any kid who was ever forced to share a bedroom with his brother will identity, and laugh, at the memories it prompts.