I saw Step Brothers (YES, I KNOW)
Posted by Richie on September 22, 2008
Look, try and see things from my point of view: I’d spent the last fortnight writing a fifty-seven-page budget for a class assignment – they didn’t mention “an entire semester dedicated to the frustration-riddled vagaries of accounting” during the open day, for some reason – and had had almost no contact with the outside world, especially the parts where I might see movie trailers. So, when class ended on Friday afternoon and somebody asked “Hey, do you want to see Step Brothers?”, I agreed without knowing what it was actually about. You at least know what you’re getting into with Robo Vampire – well, sort of – but for all I knew Step Brothers was a gritty coming-of-age story about a disintegrating family in Salford. By the time I saw the poster, I was in Ferrell stepped in so far that, should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as sitting through the sodding thing.
You know when someone’s so convinced of their own hilarity that they lose all sense of self-awareness and start laughing at their own jokes, even though nobody else is? That’s Step Brothers. There’s an improvised scene, early on, when Ferrell and Reilly sleepwalk into a kitchen, pick up random objects and then start smashing them up whilst screaming in weird voices. That’s… that’s the entire scene. It’s not that it isn’t remotely funny, it’s that it’s bewildering. You can’t work out what went wrong with it, because you can’t work out what they were actually trying to accomplish in the first place. When the scene abruptly ended with no punchline, payoff or explanation, my friend turned around and whispered “What the fuck is this shit?”, and I had absolutely no idea how to respond. When it’s not the cinematic equivalent of Darkknight1987′s YouTube account, it’s desperately trying to generate Napoleon Dynamite-esque catch phrases, as if it seriously expects dullards worldwide to start wearing “Imagine all the activities we could do!” Cafepress shirts. You also get to see Will Ferrell’s testicles in a scene so monumentally misjudged that even the people – if they can reasonably be called “people” – who were otherwise in hysterics fell deathly silent.
There is one moment, however, where the film looks like it might provoke the target audience to ask questions about their lives. One of the titular step brohters’ parents – I honestly can’t remember which one, because I was past caring at this point (roughly ten minutes in) – wonders aloud, “Where did he get this sense of entitlement from?”. These guys spend their days on the couch watching TV, expect other people to cook and clean for them, think their natural talents (one’s a drummer, one’s a singer) mean they’re special and don’t need to work, that women are obligated to sleep with them, and that anything which makes them vaguely uncomfortable, no matter how miniscule, is as dramatic as Ride of the fucking Valkyries. They are, in other words, the target audience, only a couple of decades older. Is the film going to run with this, then? Is it going to say, hey, do you want to keep heading in this direction? Do you want to turn out like this when you’re forty?
God, do you even need me to answer that question?
This is another entry in the proud tradition of slacker comedies about following your dreams in the face of what The Man tells you. And in that same proud tradition, the dreams on display here involve acting like a spoiled child and expecting everybody else to rearrange their lives around you, because obviously the only reason anybody might take issue with your behaviour is that they’ve sold out their principles to the corporate machine, man. It takes a heady cocktail of privilege and self-delusion to turn “expecting a reward for doing absolutely nothing” into a form of rebellion, but since Step Brothers has already grossed over $100 million, you can understand why people might try. And since we started this adventure on campus, it’s worth pointing out that at least two female students I’m friends with have such overwhelming workloads and financial issues that they’ve become physically sick from stress. I say “at least” because they don’t go around whining about it all day and I only found out indirectly. Which students do whine about their lives all day…? Yes, exactly. It’s odd that we treat whining as a feminine characteristic (“whiny bitch”, “whining like a girl”) when the ratio of whiny men to whiny women is, based on personal experience, about 10:1. IT’S SO HARD BEING A NICE GUY OH GOD WHY ARE THOSE UGLY BITCHES SO SHALLOW.
But women really do want a fortysomething manchild who (literally) can’t wipe his ass properly, if Step Brothers is any indication. One of the brothers – again, I can’t remember which, since they’re essentially exactly the same character – has a non-step brother who’s hugely successful and rich… BECAUSE HE’S A JERK. There are, remember, absolutely no shades of grey in this movie, even by slacker comedy standards. If you’re of the same generation as the leads and have more money than them – parents are allowed to have money, because it’s their job to support you – then it’s obviously because you’re an aggressive, status-obsessed dickblister who everybody secretly hates. God knows I hate people like that too, but there’s a huge difference between yuppie protoplasm and, say, people who need money because they have to make ends meet and can’t rely on their parents for financial support. Look, being privileged enough to get by without working doesn’t make you a dick by definition, but refusing to acknowledge that you’ve actually got a pretty good thing going takes you perilously close, and actually complaining that your life is hard tips you far, far over the edge. No, wait, we’re in reality again, back to the movie. The step brother’s brother (realises this will become really annoying to type, checks IMDB) Derrick pays for his crimes against slackerdom when (IMDB tab still open) Dale punches him in the face, which really, really turns his wife on, because Derrick’s an abusive asshole and Dale is… uh, yeah. She then throws herself at Dale and explains what she wants to do with him in a monologue that’s probably quite funny if you laugh every time somebody says “vagina”, but is otherwise as funny as everything else in the film. The one played by Will Ferrell (IMDB tab still open, but can’t be fucked) also manages to hook up with his therapist, after she realises how great he is because he’s not as boring as her other patients. See, they talk about issues they had with their parents, while the one played by Will Ferrell is hugely obnoxious and keeps trying to get her to go out with him, which isn’t really harassment because she secretly wants him. So very, very secretly that she doesn’t even realise it herself.
The movie eventually ends with everybody realising how great and underappreciated Dale and the one played by Will Ferrell are, after they salvage a disastrous wine mixer by performing (don’t need to check IMDB because I’m pretentious) Por Ti Volare after the original band leaves under circumstances too boring to recall. Because, see, Dale is a genius on the drums and Will Ferrell has a fantastic voice. You know, their natural talents that they don’t ever need to actually work on or develop. So… they don’t actually accomplish anything or develop as characters, and the only people who learn a lesson are the ones who asked them to question their behaviour. This also makes the “Oh, but they’re idiots, you’re not meant to want to be like them” argument lose all meaning, since every single character in the movie has fallen in love with them by the end.
“Where did he get this sense of entitlement from?”. Yeah, I wonder.