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Review of the 2008 Movie Step Brothers

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Film Studies
Wordcount: 1817 words Published: 16th Sep 2021

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Step Brothers (2008), directed by Adam McKay, is a raunchy, funny film for comedy audiences. It stars Will Ferrell and Jon C. Reilly as Brenan and Dale. These two single, and very juvenile, forty something, guys’ lives change once their parents, played by Oscar winning. Mary Steenbuge and Richard Jenkins, fall in love and get married. These two men become best of friends and brothers, as well as experience for the first time their struggles as adults for the first time. In this comedy though it is raunchy and stupid, offers a true message of unconditional love. Many critiques have both negative and positive feedback concerning this film. However, I think that this film is inappropriately hilarious and embraces the goof in all of us, in every charter in this story.

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In this movie, two middle -aged men in their forties, Dale, and Brenan, live together by force upon their parents’ marriage union. This takes place in present time in a normal American suburban family situation. These men are like overgrown teenagers eating cereal and nachos for breakfast, video games, no jobs and sponging off the benefit of each single parent. After becoming comfortable with the living arrangement and each other, Dale and Brenan become the best of friends. The plot twists as their adventures don’t always take them in the same direction. Their parents want them to grow up and get jobs and move out so they can live their lives and travel on the boat. Dale becomes a talented chef and Brenan begins working for his younger brother, Derek and falling in love with his therapist. Brenan’s brother Derek is a jerk. He is spoiled and selfish and is mean to his wife, who also has a cheesy, dramatic affair with Dale in the movie. Ultimately in the end everything does work out for everyone.

I found this movie to be very funny and well worth the watch. It offers a level of adult humor on a juvenile twist for those audience members who can appreciate its silly raunchy humor. The epic scenes between the two brothers allows those of us with siblings to identify with some of the disagreements between the brothers. From the “I am going to mess up your stuff” aspect to the “I’ll kill you”, ‘I hate you” situations, and all the hilarious sleep walking in between, the critics are somewhat divided about its overall ratings. Calvin Wilson (2008) from the St Louis Post Dispatch states, “why result to gross-out tactics when your premise is strong enough to allow for a more sophisticated approach” (para. 2). I feel he has a point but this was not the approach for this film. Wilson states that this is “Bottom line, a crude but hilarious comedy” (headline). Roger Ebert (2008) stated he did not agree on the critic websites. He said that the movie left him feeling “unclean” because of the raunchy humor and adult situations and violence. His overall response was “don’t watch it on an airplane, don’t check it out on cable, don’t walk past the bargain basement bin where it is sold” (para. 4). I can understand how both the critic and the website can feel this way as this kind of humor is not for every one’s eyes and ears. The adult scene in the bathroom where the affair between Derek’s wife and Dale is not very tasteful and does kind of leaving you feeling gross. I think it could have been left out. Quite frankly, the violence factor in the film is mild. The men are portrayed as overgrown teens and in my opinion do not behave any more violent to one another than teen brothers would be. The film just dramatized it and made it more on an adult level of humorous violence. Likewise, David Marchese (2014) for Rolling Stone Magazine shares common ground with his article titled, “Finding the Dinosaur: A Step Brothers Appreciation”. Marchese starts his piece by saying, “Step Brothers, more and truer laughs than any other Ferrell and McKay movie” (para.7). Whereas, Peter Bradshaw ( ), from the Guardian.com, doesn’t feel the same, stating that this is “another unashamedly juvenile comedy from the awe-inspired busy Judd Apatow production line” (para. ). I agree the plot has a few flaws, because the audience doesn’t know how these two men became the way they are while everyone seems to be normal functioning adults leaving some of the films elements farfetched, such as the affair with Dale and Derek’s wife and the relationship with Brenan and his therapist in the end.

The acting in Step Brothers is great and the critics do agree. Kyle Smith (2008) from the New York Post, agrees with my opinion saying “There is too much funny here for a movie” and further elaborates “Step Brothers should be a TV show” (review 1). The chemistry between Ferrell and Reilly is amazing. Will Ferrell play’s Brenan whose mother is the one who married Dales father. Brenan is like a spoiled fourteen-year-old and John C Reilly plays Dale, another likeminded man acting like an overgrown fourteen-year-old. They are grown men and have the whole sibling rivalry scene to the point. When they get into the argument over whether or not Brenan touched Dales drum set leading to the scene where they try to bury each other alive in the yard and the face off in the front yard leaving each other knocked out while the mother is spraying them with the hose. You are left with a lot of laughter. If in fact, this movie could be constructed into a television show, many people will watch it. When Ferrell and Reilly do the sleepwalking scene, you can really believe the character. Putting couch pillows in the oven, dumping coffee all over and throwing coffee cups, walking around saying weird things like “Hi I’m Carol”, and “Carols on fire”, I laugh still. Mary Steenburg who plays Brenan’s mother, Nancy Huff, is a tired woman. She gives the impression she is getting too old to be babysitting and really wants to get on with her life before time runs out. Richard Jenkins who plays Dales father, Robert Doback, is a professional doctor, who just wants to sail around the world with his wife and retire. Neither one of these two can do that because of their sons. This makes a big problem in the marriage and they start considering divorcing, but all is well in the end.

The director chose to present the story in a way that most people in a mixed family would be able to relate to. I like the choice of angles the director used to capture the exact image of the funnier moments in the film. This allowed the audience to be right there in the scene. In the sleep walking scene for example, the lighting is set perfectly to show it is night time and it is late while everyone is sleeping. The angles and lighting capture the details that make these scenes funny by showing expression on the face[AW1], for example when they are sleeping after the sleep walking scene, dale is shown with mustard on his face and a piece of bread in his hand. Another way the characters were walking or jumping around, the camera shows emphasis on their legs when running or when talking you can see their facial expressions close up like the camera zoom, clearly to match the scene.

Adam McKay is an American film director and producer. He was also head writer for Saturday Night Live for two seasons, Winston Cook-Wilson (2016), states in an article for Spin Magazine. “that Step Brothers is, dramatically, and politically charged, Oscar worthy fare” (Cook-Wilson).

The costumes, lighting, and sets were enjoyable and amusing. In the beginning when Brenan and Dale met the scene is set at the afternoon in the front yard and they were both dressed like two fourteen-year-old kids with some old graphic t-shirts on and stupid haircuts. Other examples are when Dale and Brenan do the video of their new company Prestige Worldwide. It is a nice sunny day and they are on Dales father’s boat dressed in jackets and scarfs like wealthy people flaunting around like they are famous also, when they are shown being responsible adults at their jobs. Dale dressed in a professional chef uniform and Brenan in business clothes. These different scenes and sets are important to the movie. The good weather and sunshine keeps the atmosphere pleasant and happy for the audience. The different costumes allow you to visualize the scene and characters as intended.

The music in the film has some catchy tunes and familiar with most American people. From Bonnie Rait, Guns N Roses, Hall and Oates, and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones there is a song everyone is going to know and sing along. The beginning tune kind of amps you up to laugh and gets you excited to watch the film. You just know it is going to be good. Guns N Roses and Bonnie Rait to very good playing musicians are used in this film. People are drawn to artists that they know. When Derek performed, the talent show scene with Ice Ice Baby, my friend knew it as soon as it came on and laughed. It was very popular in America in the 90s.

In conclusion to my review I will admit that Step Brothers is not intended for all audiences. I would recommend Step Brothers to anyone needing a good laugh. This story will help you laugh at the funny stories of you and your own siblings or mixed family mergers. If you are a Ferrell and Reilly fan and appreciate the comedy from them, like the sleep walking scene or the music video for Prestige Worldwide, or haven’t had the opportunity you will want to see this film. If you don’t find sibling rivalry like when they fight over the drum set or goofy and gross humor like licking the dog poop, that exceeds adult humor on a juvenile maturity level, then I would not suggest this film for you.


K. (2016,May 27). [Review of the film Step Brothers]. Cinemablend. Retired January 31, 2017. From http://

“Step Brothers.” Metacritic. Columbia Pictures, 25 July 2008. Web. 30 Jan. 2017.

Ebert, Roger. “Step Brothers Movie Review & Film Summary (2008) | Roger Ebert.” All Content. N.p., 23 July 2008. Travers, Peter. “Step Brothers.” Rolling Stone. Rolling Stone, 07 Aug. 2008. Web. 30 Jan. 2017.Web. 30 Jan. 2017.

McKay, A. (Director(. (2008). Step Brothers [DVD]. New York: Sony.

22, 2016 Winston Cook-Wilson// November, and Winston Cook-Wilson. “Big Short Director Adam McKay Is Writing and Directing a Dick Cheney Movie.” Spin. N.p., 22 Nov. 2016. Web. 30 Jan. 2017.

Wilson, Calvin. “Step Brothers: B.” Stltoday.com. N.p., 25 July 2008. Web. 30 Jan. 2017.

Bradshaw, Peter. “Film Review: Step Brothers.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 28 Aug. 2008. Web. 30 Jan. 2017.


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