Film » Screens

Arrested Development

A Sibling Rivalry Turns Ugly In Step Brothers



Nancy (Mary Steenburgen) and Robert (Richard Jenkins) are two single parents who quickly consummate their relationship in a sleazy hotel room after locking eyes at a conference. They don't know a thing about each other before getting it on, but as they're undressing, they confess they're currently supporting their loser sons, who, though close to 40, are still living at home. What each thinks will be a turn-off ends up becoming a turn-on. That is, until Nancy and Robert decide to marry and move in with each other, recalcitrant kids in tow.

From the start, Brennan (Will Ferrell) and Dale (John C. Reilly) have it out for each other. Because space is limited at the house, they have to share a room, and on their first night together, they threaten each other with extreme forms of bodily harm before falling asleep. The climax comes when Brennan literally rubs his nutsack on Dale's precious drum kit, which he has forbid his stepbrother from even touching, let alone defiling. The ensuing fight finds the two tumbling down the stairs and punching holes in the drywall, kicking and screaming as they spill into the front yard and attract a crowd of neighbors. It's all good, foulmouthed fun, with Ferrell and Reilly delivering the physical comedy and offbeat antics for which they're known and really reveling in the fact that they get to play characters who never matured into adults.

It all comes to a screeching halt when the two make up due to their mutual hatred for Brennan's younger brother Derek (Adam Scott), a successful sales guy who takes sailing trips with tycoons like Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. When Dale punches out Derek one night, Brennan decides his stepbrother isn't so bad after all. They bond even more as their respective parents force them to start looking for jobs and attending therapy sessions. The film, however, is much funnier when Dale and Brennan are hurling X-rated insults at each other.

Plus, several of the subplots that emerge seem forced. Derek's wife, Alice (Kathryn Hahn), falls for Dale, and Brennan pronounces his love for his therapist. Neither storyline does anything to enhance the plot. And while the language and sexual situations push the film's R rating in ways that would make John Waters proud (there's a shit-eating scene that's a likely homage to Pink Flamingos), it all grows a bit tiresome by the film's end, especially since many of the jokes seem lifted from other comedies associated with Judd Apatow (The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up), who serves as the film's producer.

Opens Friday area-wide

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