Remind me, what was so great about Will Ferrell? Judd Apatow -- wasn't he responsible for some funny movies a long time ago? Their suffocatingly stupid comedy "Step Brothers," hellbent on destroying every last brain cell that wasn't exterminated by "Semi-Pro" and "Drillbit Taylor," makes it near-impossible to recall their glory days. I wish I could forget the new movie as easily.
Ferrell stars with John C. Reilly as 40-year-old men with the minds, social skills and emotional maturity of spoiled 9-year-olds. Why? Did they fall off the roof and hit their heads? Are they ironic man-child representatives of a lost generation? The script provides no answers. My hunch: They are the product of screenwriters bent on the downfall of Western civilization.
The peabrains' respective single parents, Mary Steenburgen and Richard Jenkins, meet cute at a medical convention where Jenkins goes off-script from his presentation about implantable hearing aids and begins babbling about Steenburgen's delectable bosom. A few clumsy edits later they are married, and Reilly and Ferrell share a bedroom and battle for alpha brother status. They sulk, they glare, they trade third-grade insults, they tussle clumsily in a debacle that must have been pitched as "Rain Man' meets "The Brady Bunch.'"
Ferrell's smug, successful brother Adam Scott visits the newly blended family and then ... oh, who am I kidding? There is no plot, no sense, symmetry or structure to this train wreck. A word processor is inadequate to review it. Nothing short of a flamethrower would do justice to this shoo-in for the Comedy Hall of Infamy.
In place of actual jokes, the stars wear ironic T-shirts in scene after scene. The brothers have a blind neighbor who appears for a single scene and is completely superfluous to the story. But blind guys are funny, you know? The best parts of the film would barely fill a 2-minute skit on Ferrell's FunnyOrDie website. You wonder why they thought the other 93 minutes of poop humor would hold our attention.
Maybe the real goal of the movie isn't to provide laughs, but to inspire schadenfreude. In filmic terms, it's like those supermarket tabloid stories that show a celebrity who's been busted doing something scandalous and stupid. The scene of Ferrell marking Reilly's drum set with his spunky male scent (don't ask how, it isn't pretty) surely will be shown for eternity at Ferrell's Celebrity Roast in Hades.
In a perverse way, the film is an ego booster for audiences. Watching this cavalcade of aggressive immaturity produced by Apatow ("Superbad," "Knocked Up") and directed by Adam McKay ("Anchorman," "Talladega Nights") is guaranteed to make anyone feel really smart in comparison.
Colin Covert • 612-673-7186