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Brennan Huff, a sporadically employed thirty-nine-year-old, lives with his mother, Nancy. Dale Doback, a terminally unemployed forty-year-old lives with his father, Robert. When Robert and Nancy marry and move in together, Brennan and Dale are forced to live with each other as step brothers. As their narcissism and downright aggressive laziness threaten to tear the family apart, these two middle-aged, immature, overgrown boys will orchestrate an insane, elaborate plan to bring their parents back together. To pull it off, they must form an unlikely bond that maybe, just maybe, will finally get them out of the house.
For more about Step Brothers and the Step Brothers Blu-ray release, see Step Brothers Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on January 21, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Director: Adam McKay
Writers: Adam McKay, Will Ferrell
Starring: Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Mary Steenburgen, Richard Jenkins, Adam Scott, Rob Riggle
» See full cast & crew
Step Brothers Blu-ray Review
Ferrell and Reilly hit high notes in an otherwise formulaic comedy...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, January 21, 2009
It's tough to deny that SNL-alum Will Ferrell is anything short of a comedic god. You may not personally enjoy his particular blend of droll humor, inane rants, and faux-emotive gags, but you have to admit he's transformed his already impressive television career into something only a few others before him have: legitimate stardom. His hits have quickly become new comedy classics and his critical failures have still found sizable fanbases... even the uncredited cameos in his canon often draw more laughs than the films in which they appear. His sense of humor is infectious, his performances are far more complex than they initially seem, and it's tough to find anyone who can't spout out a quote from one of his characters. Unfortunately, fame and talent isn't always enough.
In Step Brothers, Ferrell steps into the shoes of Brennan Huff, an immature, egotistical dolt who hasn't held a steady job in years and still lives with his mother, Nancy (Mary Steenburgen). Brennan is the proverbial king of the castle until Nancy marries Robert (Richard Jenkins), a man whose equally-stunted middle-aged son, Dale (Reilly), loathes the very thought of living with anyone but his dad. When the doe-eyed newlyweds move in together and force the boys to cohabitate, Brennan and Dale begin fighting for the same limited attention; each one declaring their fierce hatred for the other. Yet just as quickly as their animosity flourishes, a close bond emerges that transforms the two warring man-children into best friends.
At first, Step Brothers had me. Without giving too much away, there are an endless parade of instantly memorable scenes between Ferrell and Reilly that sent me into uncontrollable fits of laughter; the sort of laughter that grows increasingly silent as it intensifies and threatens to cut off circulation to your brain if you don't find a way to stop and take a breath. Whether it was an argument over Dale's drums, a sleepwalking showdown, or a succinct montage of arrested-development hilarity, I was continually reduced to an embarrassing heap of tears and wheezes that drew stares from my fellow theater patrons.
However, to my dismay, director Adam McKay (Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby) couldn't leave well enough alone. Wedging a disappointingly clichéd story into the midst of Ferrel and Reilly's antics, the filmmaker manages to sap every bit of soul and charisma from their characters. For whatever reason, their fresh and shocking humor is constantly sidelined to advance the dull and decidedly PG-rated plot. Don't get me wrong, I knew the film would have a plot... I just didn't expect it to be so meandering, sappy, and predictable. There's no internal sense of logic, no cohesion from one moment to the next and, just when the film gains momentum, an ill-advised bit of back peddling stalls the story and leaves Brennan and Dale with little to do (other than hobble towards an unremarkable and anticlimactic endgame).
The resulting film feels more like a disjointed episode of Saturday Night Live than a feature film. As it was, I found myself slapping the arms of my seat one minute and blankly staring at the screen the next; the film was that uneven. It would be a more bearable outcome if McKay was solely trying to craft a hard hitting comedy, but he crams in so many message points and wafer-thin morals that it's clear he wasn't aiming to make a free-form farce. His choices undermine his characters' development, the impact of several otherwise gut-punching gags, and the overall thrust of B&D's misadventures in job hunting and matchmaking.
I have no doubt some of you will adore every second of Step Brothers -- if your favorite comedies aren't necessarily the greatest films, you'll outright love McKay's patchwork production -- but I just couldn't get into this one like I wanted to. The film's good for a few easy laughs, but it rarely showcases the wit, focus, or pacing of the best comedies on the market. Give it a shot, but brace yourself for the worst. Hopefully, you'll enjoy Step Brothers for what it is and miss out on the crushing disappointment I felt as the credits rolled.
Step Brothers Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Blu-ray edition of Step Brothers may not offer the sort of rose-colored, primary-popping presentation genre fans have come to expect, but it does feature a faithful 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer that handles the film's intentionally muddied palette and bronzed skintones with ease. Perfectly rendered fine details, sharp texturing, and revealing clarity imbue every foreground object and background element with dimension and depth. Whites are often over or underexposed and blacks fairly oppressive, but contrast remains strong and clean throughout (regardless of how intense or subdued any scene's particular lighting may be). More importantly, I didn't detect any artificial tampering -- the filmic picture hasn't been touched by DNR and the refined edges aren't overwrought with edge enhancement. Better still, I didn't notice any of the distracting artifact clouds, digital noise (outside of a handful of speckled establishing shots), banding, or grain irregularities that frequently appear on the standard DVD.
While it isn't the most attractive comedy I've watched in high definition (or really a good looking film in any regard), the Blu-ray edition of the film boasts an impressive technical presentation that reproduces the director's every intention. It's certainly not the first disc I'll whip out when someone wants to check out my home theater, but it also didn't leave me with any serious complaints.
Step Brothers Blu-ray, Audio Quality
While Sony has given Step Brothers a solid Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless surround track, the film itself is little more than a conversational comedy that timidly burdens the front soundstage with the majority of its sonic weight. Granted, dialogue is faultless, prioritization is spot on, and the rear speakers do chirp up when called upon, but LFE support is weak and spotty, inconsistent leveling produces occasional volume irregularities, and the track's lazy directionality places many effects where they simply don't belong. Considering all of the physical comedy Ferrell and Reilly undergo to earn a laugh, I'm surprised that a lot of it sounds flat and uninvolving. Brennan's assault on Dale's drums doesn't pack much punch, the sleepwalking battle is accompanied by an underwhelming soundscape, and the impact of falling bunk beds and swinging shovels just doesn't have the oomph I expected. As I sat through each scene, I continually found myself wishing the entire experience had more swagger and presence.
Still, I remember having the exact same complaints when I saw Step Brothers in the theater. As a result, any such shortcoming should be attributed to the film's uninspiring sound design rather than the TrueHD track Sony minted for this release. I know fans will ultimately shrug their shoulders at its flaws, but anyone objectively evaluating the audio will probably agree that it comes up short.
Step Brothers Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The 2-Disc Unrated Blu-ray edition of Step Brothers includes all of the special features that appear on the standard DVD. I have to admit the seemingly endless content grew tiresome and repetitive after a while, but only because I tried to push through it all in one sitting. As an added bonus, all of the video content (on both discs no less) is presented in high definition.
Step Brothers Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I wish Step Brothers had won me over with its humor, characters, and story. However, even as a rabid Ferrell apologist, I just couldn't sink into the flick or ignore its glaring flaws... no matter how hard I laughed at Ferrell and Reilly's on-screen feud. Thankfully, Sony delivers a value-packed Blu-ray edition for fans to get excited about. It features both the theatrical and extended cuts of the film, a crisp AVC-encoded video transfer, a faithful (albeit underwhelming) TrueHD audio track, and a huge assortment of supplemental features spread across two discs. If you enjoyed Step Brothers, picking this release up is a no-brainer.
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