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Adam McKay
Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Mary Steenburgen, Richard Jenkins, Adam Scott, Kathryn Hahn, Andrea Savage, Lurie Poston, Elizabeth Yozamp, Logan Manus
Writing Credits:
Will Ferrell (and story), Adam McKay (and story), John C. Reilly (story)

They grow up so fast.

Brennan Huff (Will Ferrell) is a sporadically employed thirty-nine-year-old who lives with his mother, Nancy (Mary Steenburgen). Dale Doback (John C. Reilly) is 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 aggressive laziness threaten to tear the 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.

Box Office:
$65 million.
Opening Weekend
$30.940 million on 3094 screens.
Domestic Gross
$100.468 million.

Rated NR

Widescreen 2.40:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 98 min. (Theatrical Version)
106 min (Extended Cut)
Price: $34.95
Release Date: 12/2/2008

DVD One:
• Audio Commentary with Director Adam McKay, Actors Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly, and NBA Star Baron Davis
• Includes Both Theatrical and Extended Versions of Step Brothers
• Extended and Alternate Scenes
• “Line-O-Rama”
• Gag Reel
• Music Video
• “The Making of Step Brothers” Featurette
• Previews
DVD Two:
• Extended and Alternate Scenes
• Deleted Scenes
• “Job Interviews”
• “Therapy Sessions”
• “Prestige Worldwide Full Presenation”
• “Dale Vs. Brennan: Sibling Rivalry” Featurette
• “The Music of Step Brothers” Featurette
• Dancing Title Sequence
• “TV Safe Lines”
• “Everyone Hates Michael Cera”
• On-Set Diaries
• “The Music of Step Brothers” Featurette
• “Press Junket Meltdown”
• Digital Copy


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Harman/Kardon DPR 2005 7.1 Channel Receiver; Toshiba A-30 HD-DVD/1080p Upconverting DVD Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Step Brothers: Unrated Special Edition (2008)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 15, 2009)

After the extremely disappointing $33 million gross of Semi-Pro, it started to look like audiences were tired of Will Ferrell’s shtick. And maybe they have, but since his follow-up – summer 2008’s Step Brothers - grabbed an even $100 million, perhaps the masses still dig Ferrell.

Time will tell, of course, but I must admit I thought Step Brothers was a hoot and possibly Ferrell’s best film. Ferrell plays Brennan Huff, a frequently unemployed 39-year-old dude who still lives with his widowed mother Nancy (Mary Steenburgen). She meets and marries Dr. Robert Doback (Richard Jenkins), the father of Brennan’s doppelganger, 40-year-old Dale (John C. Reilly). Both guys sponge off their parents, and neither seems to have experienced any emotional growth since the age of 10.

When Nancy and Robert wed, this combines the families, though not with good results right off the bat. Upset with these life changes, Dale and Brennan clash and come to blows. However, when they discover just how much they have in common, they become BFFs. The movie follows their goofy relationship along with their parents’ attempts to force them to act like actual adults.

In a summer packed with “R”-rated comedies like Pineapple Express and Tropic Thunder, I think Step Brothers stood out as the best of the bunch. Thunder worked better as a concept than as a film, and I’ll save my disdain for Pineapple until I review the DVD; let’s just say I really didn’t like it.

On the other hand, Step Brothers usually succeeded. The third act falters a bit, mostly since “mature” versions of Brennan and Dale just aren’t entertaining. However, Ferrell and Reilly show great chemistry; all alone, they’re enough to pack the movie with more than a few laughs. I'm a tough audience for comedies, but I laughed out loud at least two dozen times during this one, and that's a lot for me. By contrast, Pineapple provoked maybe three small chuckles and that was it.

I just adore Reilly; he actually makes a fart joke funny here, something I didn't think anyone could do. Sure, Ferrell plays the same man-child as usual, but the role seems more logical here, and he works so well with Reilly that he comes across at his best.

Some feel Step Brothers pours on too much crude humor, but I don't think there’s that much here. There are a few gross gags but not a ton. Yes, the movie uses a lot of immature antics, but that's the point: these are guys who never matured past the age of 10. Of course they're "overgrown brats" - that's the entire comedic premise of the film.

And one that the film never expects us to take seriously. The Ferrell and Reilly characters are comedic extremes, and good ones at that. Heck, one could argue both men play the same character, as there's really little to differentiate Dale from Brennan. Surprisingly, this doesn't matter, as their antics are so entertaining.

As I mentioned, I think the third act peters out a bit, but some of that comes from its plot choices; by definition, it has to be the least funny of the three since it focuses on the characters’ maturity. Both of the first two acts come packed with laughs, though; the job interview montage alone is priceless.

So chalk up Step Brothers as a great return to form for Will Ferrell. Actually, I kind of enjoyed Semi-Pro, but I thought Ferrell turned into its weakest link. In contrast, he entertains us in Step Brothers, and his chemistry with the great John C. Reilly helps elevate the material. This isn’t a brainy flick, but it’s a heck of a good time.

Footnote: stick with the movie and you’ll find an extended mid-credits sequence as well as a little capper at the very end of the flick.

The DVD Grades: Picture C/ Audio B-/ Bonus A

Step Brothers appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though always watchable, the transfer seemed ordinary.

Sharpness varied. Most shots demonstrated good delineation, but more than a few exceptions occurred. Wide shots tended to be somewhat soft and fuzzy, so they created occasional distractions. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, but edge enhancement cropped up through the film; I noticed moderate haloes a fair amount of the time. The flick also tended to be a bit grainy, but other source flaws failed to appear.

Colors looked fairly ordinary. The image took on a golden tone much of the time, but the image stayed with a pretty natural impression. The hues seemed acceptable but they weren’t particularly strong. Blacks appeared reasonably dark and tight, while shadows showed decent delineation; some low-light shots were a bit too thick, though. All of this was good enough for a mediocre “C”.

I also thought the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Step Brothers remained unexceptional, though it worked better than the visuals. Of course, I didn’t expect a dazzling soundfield from this sort of comedy, and I got exactly what I anticipated. In terms of effects, general ambience ruled the day. Surround usage stayed limited; the back speakers gently fleshed out various settings but did little more than that.

In those forward channels, the music provided nice stereo separation and opened up the mix reasonably well. There wasn’t a whole lot of activity or movement, but the effects conveyed a passable sense of space and place. The track functioned appropriately for the story.

Audio quality appeared fine. Dialogue was consistently warm and natural, though I noticed a little edginess at times. Effects were a minor component of the mix, and they seemed appropriately subdued and accurate; there wasn’t much to hear, but the various elements were clean and distinct. The music came across as acceptably distinctive. This was a standard “comedy mix” and became a decent reproduction of the material.

In terms of extras, we get plenty on this 2-DVD set. On Disc One, we open with an audio commentary from director Adam McKay, actors Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly, and NBA star Baron Davis. Composer Jon Brion also scores the commentary, and that’s the factor that makes it unusual.

Rather than simply chat about the movie, Brion’s music prompts the participants to sing their remarks. This conceit continues through the whole commentary, though it comes and goes.

Why is Davis here? For the wackiness factor, I guess. Remember that these are the same guys who brought Lou Rawls into the commentary for Anchorman even though the soul singer had nothing to do with the film. Nor did Davis, but to my surprise, he adds a lot to the track. He pops up about one-third of the way into the flick, and he provides a lively presence.

When Davis first arrives, the others pepper him with questions about life in the NBA. Davis then adds a nice Barry White vibe to a song about wooing a southern California city. (This makes sense – sort of – if you listen to the commentary.)

Davis also pushes the commentary toward the informative side of the street. Before his arrival, the track mixes a few actual movie-making tidbits with a lot of singing and joking. Davis really likes the Ferrell and Reilly flicks, so he displays genuine interest in the creation of Step Brothers; he prompts the guys to actually chat about the movie, something they don’t do a whole lot before he comes onto the scene.

When Davis splits, the track loses some steam, and the remaining participants acknowledge that they fade as matters progress. Still, the whole thing proves pretty amusing and entertaining. Will you learn much about the movie? No, but you probably won’t care. This commentary is a lot of fun, even if it doesn’t tell us a lot about Step Brothers.

We can watch either the original 98-minute theatrical cut of Step Brothers or the 106-minute extended version. How do the two differ? Not in many ways, though a few scenes are longer than their theatrical counterparts. We see more of the first family dinner between the two connected clans, and the physical fight between Brennan and Dale runs longer.

The extended version throws in a little more in terms of the job interviews and the house tours, and both Derek’s birthday and Christmas dinner add footage. The latter offers probably the most new material, as it provides quite a lot of extra information, most of which connects to Dale’s relationship with Derek’s wife Alice. Some other new pieces may appear as well, but those are the ones I noticed.

All of this footage is fun to see, but I don’t know if any of it adds to the film’s impact. I really liked the theatrical cut of Step Brothers, but that doesn’t mean more of a good thing proves successful. Still, both versions work fine; the theatrical one’s a bit tighter, but both entertain.

Five Extended and Alternate Scenes fill a total of 17 minutes, 32 seconds. These include “Ghost Story” (1:45), “What Do You Do?” (3:01), “Night Vision Goggles” (4:22), “Hulk Hands” (3:15) and “Catalina Heart Attack” (5:04). Lots of funny material appears here, though I don’t know if any of it would’ve been good in the movie. “Ghost Story” does explain why Brennan’s so afraid of spectral visitors, and “Hulk Hands” is a funny extension to the Christmas scene. These probably would’ve made the flick drag, but they’re enjoyable to see here.

More cut material comes from Line-O-Rama. It offers a five-minute and 56-second collection of alternate lines. These mostly come from scenes that made the flick but provide different takes. That makes them entertaining.

After this we find a four-minute and 17-second Gag Reel. Though these usually end in the standard giggles, they feature many alternate lines not found elsewhere. That makes the “Reel” much more valuable than the average blooper collection; it’s a ton of fun.

Next we get a music video for “Boats ‘n Hoes”. We see parts of this clip during the movie, but the one-minute and 45-second segment lets us check out the whole thing. That makes it a neat addition to the set.

DVD One also provides a featurette. The Making of Step Brothers goes for 22 minutes, four seconds and features McKay, Reilly, Farrell, producer Judd Apatow, and actors Richard Jenkins, Adam Scott, Kathryn Hahn, and Mary Steenburgen. We learn about the project’s origins and development, cast, characters, performances and improv, the crew and their work, and a few scene specifics.

While we find some decent details about the production, the behind the scenes bits work the best. We find many cool shots from the set and get even more improv material. Even if we learned nothing about the flick, “Making” would be worthwhile due to all the unused footage.

DVD One opens with some ads. We get promos for Pineapple Express, The Pink Panther 2, and Synecdoche, New York. These also appear in the Previews area along with trailers for The Wackness and Hancock.

Over on DVD Two, we open with more Extended and Alternate Scenes. With a total running time of 21 minutes, 27 second, we get 10 of these: “Wedding Toasts” (2:50), “Sex Talk” (1:00), “Treehouse Sex Stories” (6:39), “Show and Tell” (2:42), “Meth Lab” (0:49), “911 For Food” (1:24), “Apartment Hunting” (1:09), “Win Win” (1:49), “I Hate Your Face” (2:28) and “Randy Flashback” (0:27). I liked the clips on DVD One, and these continue to entertain. A few of them get a bit old; “Treehouse” is the worst offender, as it goes on way too long. Or it would go on way too long if it ended up in the final cut, but as an extra, it’s nice to see. These sequences become another delightful addition to the set.

DVD Two also presents six Deleted Scenes. These go for nine minutes, 35 seconds and feature “Fancy Sauce” (1:50), “Hard Wired” (1:00), “Robert and Nancy Fight” (2:04), “Post Party Fight” (1:14), “Where Are My Condoms?” (1:10) and “Dale and Alice at the Buffet” (2:16).

To some degree, these almost feel like extended scenes, since virtually all of them connect to sequences in the final flick. Nonetheless, they offer elements not directly attached to existing sequences. For instance, we see Alice hit on Dale at the helicopter party; though we view a lot of that gala, no remnants of this scene appear in the end product. As usual, the segments are a lot of fun and definitely worth a look.

By the way, “Apartment Hunting” from the “Extended and Alternate Scenes” area probably should’ve been under “Deleted Scenes”. We see a little of it during a montage, but that was silent footage; this version offers dialogue absent from the final film. That gives it a very different flavor and really turns it into an actual deleted scene in my opinion.

Plenty more cut footage comes in a few other domains. These include Job Interviews (29:09), Therapy Sessions (13:38), and the Prestige Worldwide Full Presentation (4:52). There’s not much left to say about this material that I didn’t already mention when I addressed the reams of other cut footage. We find lots and lots of additional amusement here; the deleted bits are just as good as the clips that made the final film. Usually cut footage is pretty forgettable, but you could make an entire alternate version of Step Brothers that’s at least as entertaining as the release edition.

Next comes a montage called Dale Vs. Brennan: Sibling Rivalry. In this six-minute and 53-second piece, we see even more deleted footage. We get alternate comments from the many early scenes that pit the stepbrothers against each other. As usual, they’re amusing.

Some actual information arrives with the 18-minute and 14-second The Music of Step Brothers. It provides notes from McKay and Brion. We get some remarks about how Brion got the gig and his work on the score, but “Music” is more show than tell. It features a lot of footage from the recording sessions, and that’s fine. It becomes a little tedious after a while, though, and I wish the participants gave us more details.

Some silliness shows up in the seven-minute and 20-second Charlyne Moves In. It tells us that Judd Apatow allows actor Charlyne Yi to live on the set for a while. Comedy results, especially when Charlyne interferes with the shoot.

A wacky program comes to us with L’Amour En Caravane. During this 12-minute and two-second piece, we’re told of romantic tensions on the set. It’s just as fabricated as “Moves In”, of course, and it’s also amusing, especially when we get some cameos from guest stars.

In addition to the film’s red band trailer, we get a few more Previews. This area presents ads for Superbad, Talladega Nights, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, The International, The House Bunny, 21, 88 Minutes, Vantage Point, King of Queens, Balls Out: Gary the Tennis Coach, Resident Evil: Degeneration and Blu-Ray Disc.

DVD Two also includes a Digital Copy of Step Brothers. This lets you transfer the flick to your computer, iPhone, iPod or other modern gizmo the youngsters love. I’ll never use it, but it’s there if you want it.

Maybe 2008’s funniest movies, Step Brothers really flies. Much of the credit comes from the chemistry between its two leads, but the silly premise, great supporting cast and general willingness to embrace its own absurdity also contribute to the movie’s success. The DVD suffers from mediocre picture quality, but the audio seems fine, and we get many fun supplements that include tons and tons of amusing pieces of cut footage. Though the visual presentation disappoints, there’s more than enough entertainment here to earn my strong recommendation.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.8437 Stars Number of Votes: 32
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main