A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this is a far raunchier comedy than the last collaboration between stars Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, and director Adam McKay, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, and much more explicit in how it stoops for laughs. It's loaded with crude, rude, sexual, and obscene language and situations, including visible male genitalia and glimpses of porn and a vocabulary that ranges from "p---y" to "f--k" and everywhere in between. There's also lots of product placement, and the film's half-hearted messages and morals -- about family, being who you are, and accepting people -- are drowned out by its loud, boisterous vulgarity.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Dr. Robert Doback (Richard Jenkins) and Janet Huff (Mary Steenburgen) meet at a medical conference, and it's love -- and lust -- at first sight. Sharing personal facts as they tear each other's clothes off, they're dumbstruck when they both realize they have adult sons still living at home. After a swift marriage, Janet and her son, Brennan (Will Ferrell), move in with Robert and his son, Dale (John C. Reilly). The "boys" initially despise each other but soon become partners in crime; unfortunately, the strain of living with two unemployed boy-men drives Robert and Janet apart. Forced to move out as their shared home is sold, Brennan and Dale have to grow up, fast, and are soon plotting to get Mom and Dad back together.
Is it any good?
There are an incredible number of things wrong here, starting with the fact that the filmmakers seem all too content to let Reilly and Ferrell's antics stand in for any plot logic or sense. Within five minutes of the film's start, you're wondering why exactly Robert and Janet have put up with their crazed slacker sons for so long. But if they hadn't, you wouldn't have a plot for your movie. Of course, you still don't have much of one, but director Adam McKay seems remarkably content to let Ferrell and Reilly scream, shout, and flail their way through every scene, assuming that the audience will find their antics hilarious. Produced by Judd Apatow (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up), Step Brothers has the raunchy rawness of his other comedies, but none of the sweetness or structure.
Overall, Step Brothers feels more like a marketing plan than a movie, more like a poster than a plot. Ferrell repeats his overly familiar wailing buffoon character, and Reilly matches him (shouted) note for (shouted) note. It's as if everyone involved was so sure that what they were doing was comedy gold that they didn't bother making an effort to create fully drawn characters or an actual plot; instead, we get two stars in thinly drawn parts that are entirely too similar to what we've seen them do many times before, drifting lazily from scene to scene with no real direction. What might have looked like a winning plan on paper -- more hilarity from the stars, folks behind hits like Anchorman and Talladega Nights! -- ends up playing out as a shabby, self-indulgent mess.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Will Ferrell's appeal. What makes something a "Will Ferrell comedy"?
What age group do you think movies like this one are aimed at?
Families can also discuss the movie's essential question: When should children leave home?
When does parental protection become more a burden than a shield?
What challenges do real blended families face? What fuels sibling rivalry in real life? Also, is it ever worth sacrificing your individuality and passion in order to get ahead?
- In theaters: July 25, 2008
- On DVD or streaming: December 1, 2008
- Cast: John C. Reilly, Richard Jenkins, Will Ferrell
- Director: Adam McKay
- Studio: Columbia Tristar
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 112 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: crude and sexual content, and pervasive language.
- Last updated: November 11, 2020
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