GENRE: Arrested development comedy
THE PITCH: Two immature, socially awkward, fortyish men – Brennan (Will Ferrell) and Dale (John C. Reilly) – become despised roommates after the wedding of their single parents (Mary Steenburgen and Richard Jenkins). Even if the stepbrothers bury the hatchet, can they face the outside world when Mom and Dad kick them out?
MONEY SHOTS: A front-yard brawl involving a golf club, bicycle and a garden hose. The spectacular failure of the brothers' attempt to build bunk beds. The brothers' plans to sabotage their parents' attempt to sell the house (which include Nazi and KKK costumes). A playground battle royale over the closing credits.
BEST LINE: Brennan compliments Dale on his nudie magazines, and Dale says, "They're from the '70s, '80s and '90s. It's like masturbating in a time machine."
FASHION STATEMENTS: Both brothers' clothes attest that they're huge Star Wars fans. We first see Brennan in pajama bottoms made from old Star Wars bed sheets; Dale wears a Yoda T-shirt and, at moments of duress, a huge Wookie mask. The brothers don matching tuxedos with ruffled shirts for job interviews. For some reason, I vividly recall Dale sleepwalking and wearing red longjohns and Hulk Hands.
PRODUCT PLACEMENT: The brothers try the old Mentos-and-Pepsi trick. Brennan's last job was at PetSmart. Brennan makes a stab at maturity by buying his own toilet paper from Costco. The brothers agree that Good Housekeeping is their favorite "non-pornographic magazine to masturbate to," but the magazine may not welcome that seal of approval.
MP3-TO-BE: Brennan and Dale debut a rap video for their composition "Boats 'n' Hos" that's like the worst elements of "Miami Vice" and the Beastie Boys. Ferrell also croons a quavering version of Bonnie Raitt and an improbably moving operatic aria.
FLESH FACTOR: Brennan makes good on his threat to put his "nut sack" on Dale's drums. (Oh please, let that have been some kind of prosthetic that I saw.) When Brennan's jerky brother Derek (Adam Scott) shows off his oiled six-pack, the film clearly uses a body double for laughs. We see Reilly in his briefs more than we probably want to.
HEY, WAIT A MINUTE: In real life, Mary Steenburgen is 55 years old and Ferrell's 41. Even though she's technically old enough to be his mother, and they never mention her character's age, isn't she a little young for the role?
THE BOTTOM LINE: Talladega Nights and Anchorman director Adam McKay reunites with Ferrell, and as usual, they seem to be having more fun making the movie than the audience has watching it. "Six Feet Under's" Richard Jenkins steals the R-rated film with his F-bombs and slow burns. Ferrell and Reilly's sibling rivalry generates occasional laughs, but Step Brothers, like its eponymous characters, proves to be a study in underachievement.