"Step Brothers" sees Will Ferrell once again paired up with director Adam McKay ("Anchorman") and producer Judd Apatow ("Anchorman", "Talladega Nights") in a movie about a man named Brennan (Will Ferrell) who has never left the nest. The only difference in this tale is the fact that Brennan is 39. When his mother (Mary Steenburgen) meets and falls for Robert (Richard Jenkins), she and Brennan move in with Robert and Dale (John C. Reilly). The two parents have something in common: Dale still lives at home (when asked what he does, he replies that he manages a baseball team ... a fantasy league baseball team) and has just passed the 40 mark.
The two brothers spend most of their time figuring out how to play pranks on one another and how best to irritate each other. While acting like kids is the order of the day for a while, the two eventually unite to battle a couple of common enemies - the first of which is Brennan's know-it-all little brother, Derek (Adam Scott). The second foe is something far more serious and epic: adulthood.
The two parents reach a point where they're ready to retire, and their decision to sell the house means that Dale and Brennan are forced to find their way in the world for the first time, which includes failing job interview after job interview. When getting a job doesn't look like it's going to work out, Brennan has to look deep within and find his long-lost musical talent.
"Step Brothers" is a bit one-note with its central gag (two grown-ups who've never actually grown up), but the rather bizarre picture sometimes manages a hysterical one-liner or gag (and, surprisingly, this is an instance where some of the better lines weren't ruined by the trailer.) Still, it's disappointing that some of the film's more inspired gags (Brennan and Dale trying to make a business presentation like the ones they've seen in "The Apprentice") come in-between a lot of crude humor (the script is credited to Ferrell and McKay, but it feels as if the production had an idea and just tried to pull together the film as they went along) that feels pretty ordinary and crude for the sake of being crude.
The fighting between the Ferrell and Reilly characters gets tired quickly (possibly because it doesn't go nearly as far as it could have), and the film does get better when the two stop arguing and try to get along. The movie even builds to a conclusion that's actually kind of heartwarming (or about as heartwarming as this kind of film can manage.)
Ferrell and Reilly offer performances that are certainly not short on effort, but given the (very) inconsistent screenplay, their over-the-top efforts in service of some of the film's more lackluster jokes (such as a sleepwalking gag) don't m. Jenkins and Steenburgen try the interesting choice of playing their characters fairly straight, and it mostly works, as the two actually have some nice moments together.
Overall, I didn't dislike this movie, but given the talent involved and the twisted, absurd heights the story could have been taken, it's too bad that the film falls a bit short of its potential. I'd like to see Ferrell and Reilly paired up again, but I'm hoping their next effort together can approach the heights of Ferrell's "Anchorman", which I think still stands as the comedian's best effort.
This Blu-Ray includes both the 98-minute theatrical cut and 106-minute unrated edition.
VIDEO: "Step Brothers" is presented in 2.40:1 (1080p/AVC) by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. While not outstanding, this is a firmly above-average presentation that should please fans. Sharpness and detail are a little inconsistent - while most scenes appeared at least moderately crisp and detailed, a few moments looked a tad softer than the rest. On a positive note, no pixelation or print flaws were spotted. While a tiny bit of edge enhancement is seen on a few occasions, this doesn't create much of a distraction. Colors looked warm and bright throughout the film, appearing well-saturated and not smeary or otherwise problematic. Black level remained pleasing, while flesh tones looked accurate.
SOUND: The film is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1. The film's audio is largely a dialogue-driven "comedy mix", although the music does open the soundtrack up a bit, with some reinforcement by the surrounds. Audio quality is very good, with full, crisp music and clear, natural dialogue.
EXTRAS: Will Ferrell, John C Reilly, Adam McKay, composer Jon Brion and NBA star Baron Davis provide an audio commentary for the film. In a first, the commentary is actually scored by Brion as it unfolds. As a result, the group actually breaks into song at times throughout the track, with Ferrell and Reilly leading the way, improving lyrics for songs on things like working with green screen.
Also included on the first disc are 15 extended/alternate scenes and 6 deleted scenes (one of which sees Ferrell trying not to laugh.) We also get an editor for a music video featuring the Ferrell and Reilly characters, as well as previews for other titles from the studio.
The second disc offers "line-o-rama" (a collection of alternate takes), a gag reel, the full set of job interview and therapy scenes, a "making of" documentary, "Charlyne Moves In" (a friend of producer Judd Apatow got booted from her apartment, so he allowed her to sleep in the film's set), "L'Amour En Caravane" (a goof featurette about a real love between Steenburgen and Jenkins; there are some amusing moments in it, but none as funny as the "Curb Your Enthusiasm" ending), alternate footage of the Ferrell and Reilly characters arguing, the full business presentation by the Reilly/Ferrell characters, a music video and the film's red-band trailer.
Also offered on the second disc are a pair of featurettes - a "making of" documentary that runs about 22 minutes and a featurette about the film's music that runs 18 minutes. The "making of" doc offers a few decent insights about the film's on-set tone and style of filming, as well as casting issues. There's a fairly fluffy/promotional tone throughout, but it's more entertaining than the usual EPK feature. The music doc visits with composer Jon Brion and members of the cast and crew, as they discuss the film's musical selections.
Final Thoughts: While the idea had potential, "Step Brothers" remains quite uneven, with some hilarious moments coming in-between stretches of crude humor that's either so-so or simply misses. The performances aren't bad, it's simply that the script could have used a spin through the rewrite process. The Blu-Ray edition offers very good video quality, fine audio and a ton of extras. Rent it.
The Film C+