The last time I saw a film as funny as Step Brothers I laughed so hard I fell off my dinosaur.
If you’re too busy watching Cops to understand that reference to the most quotable film in history (IDST), then listen up because you should’ve been watching Step Brothers instead. Unless it’s Shark Week.
Let’s revisit Jonny Hopkins and Sloane Kettering:
After that foray into comedy gold, I present unto you this hypothesis: Step Brothers, released on this day (29 August) in the UK exactly ten years ago, is the greatest Will Ferrell movie ever made.
From the moment Dale Doback (Dragon) met Brennan Huff (Nighthawk) on the front yard of their newly-shared home, the Peter Pan-esque step brothers wreak untold havoc, with a penchant for cuss words and physical destruction, even in their sleep.
It’s more slapstick than you can shake a stick at, thanks to the two most ridiculous 40-something-year-old characters written in recent cinema history.
Step Brothers rang in a new dawn of off-the-wall weird American comedy (think Eastbound and Down) which followed misfits, outcasts and unlikeable losers – just like Dale (John C. Reilly) and Brennan (Will Ferrell) – with varying degrees of hilarity.
It marked the kind of comedy we’d enjoyed in Britain for years – thanks to the likes of Black Books and The Mighty Boosh – except Hollywood drenched it in special sauce and more memorable one-liners than you can teabag.
Just check out the blooper reel of idiotic improv innovation:
But can you really call it the best Will Ferrell movie – which he also co-wrote – ever?
Ferrell’s performance is brilliant. He’s at his most, well, feral, deploying the trademark gibberish he learned on the set of Saturday Night Live, with his TONY Award-winning George W. Bush impersonations.
Incidentally, UNILAD spoke to Elizabeth Yozamp (a marine who played Tiffany Huff as a kid) and she told us it was was one of the most joyous acting experiences of her life.
Take a look at some of the most successful actors in history:
The trope of the man-child is executed perfectly. It’s just real enough to be believable, but so ridiculous you can’t help but watch, aghast at how Dale and Brennan’s parents (well portrayed by Mary Steenburgen and Richard Jenkins) continue to enable the pair of reprobates.
Still, the viewers are collectively crushed when reality set in during the film’s third act and the pair are forced to find employment after their antics have pushed their parents to divorce.
You want the best for these characters, because they represent everything most adolescent males wish they could continue to be indefinitely: Childlike, selfish, and ultimately, full of joy.
Director Adam McKay said the film’s success was pinned on the moment in pop culture when it was released; a time when all of sudden it became accepted – and cool – in the mainstream for adults to wear Star Wars t-shirts and hoarding collectibles, the likes of which were usually the preserve of kids.
Ferrell and Reilly’s childlike characterisations culminated in their obsession with shark week:
Of course, Step Brothers became an instant hit, despite distinctly average reviews and scores on MetaCritic and Rotten Tomatoes.
It truly reached prestige, worldwide, among its cult following, however. In comparison to the meagre earnings of Semi-Pro ($43 million) Step Brothers has earned $128 million to date.
Nevertheless, Ferrell is one of the most over-paid actors in Hollywood:
But Step Brothers is still the smaller, weedier little kid brother of Ferrell’s mainstream Anchorman, which was so successful it didn’t take McKay long to give it the sequel treatment.
Even though Anchorman made $90,574,188 worldwide – less than Step Brothers – Anchorman grossed $173,649,015.
You can watch the trailer below:
But with Step Brothers, even though the film made a lot of money, it was different. Unlike the Anchorman films, which everyone saw and understood, Step Brothers was, and is, a club.
If you couldn’t quote the line about the pillow case and some bars of soap or didn’t get invited to some kid’s fake f*cking Catalina Wine Mixer house party, you were as ostracised as poor Mrs Huff.
It was tribal. Just ask the folk over at Ranker, who voted it the best Will Ferrell film, thus confirming my hypothesis.
Undoubtedly, its niche brand and band of merry followers serves to antagonise the film’s detractors.
But quoting Step Brothers is the film equivalent of seeing a stranger wear your favourite band’s t-shirt and giving them a knowing smile.
Watching Step Brothers now it’s fair to say it’s aged. But who doesn’t still wear their embarrassingly tatty Bring Me The Horizon EP shirt with pride, hey?
The male-centric, white privileged narrative of Step Brothers doesn’t stand up to much more self-aware modern comedies – or even older examples like Napoleon Dynamite.
But the beauty of Huff and Doback is this: They’re hilarious on screen but hateful creatures should you have the misfortune of meeting them in real life.
If anyone watches this film as a glorification of the modern man, trying to replicate their actions, they’ve completely missed the whole entire point. And yet…
As for that Catalina Wine Mixer, McKay told Cinema Blend:
It’s the craziest thing. I had John C. Reilly send me a story a couple years ago that they’re actually doing a Catalina Wine Mixer on Catalina every year.
And then I heard stories of Bro Culture doing the parties. I mean, that has to be one of the strangest things with the movies Will and I have done… certainly in the case of Anchorman, Talladega Nights and Step Brothers.
We’re kind of making fun of certain cultures. Like a bro culture or you know, a white sexist 1970s guy. And then, when you see the people who you’re kind of making fun of embrace it, it’s both hilarious, and at the same time, dispiriting.
But, all the same, the viewing experience – almost always accompanied by a hangover – is akin to donning a comforting comedy cloak and regressing back to a simpler time; and a mindset much like Dale and Brennan.
Perhaps that’s why so many people want a reboot or a sequel. After all, the whole of Hollywood seems to be jumping on the nostalgia train right now.
Step Brothers remains one of the most-desirable sequels in film history:
Will Ferrell told the New York Daily News:
We talked about Step Brothers and then Adam and I got sidetracked with other things.
We had a whole story where John [C. Reilly] and I follow our parents to live in a retirement community and try to convince them we earned the right to retire as well.
The sequel thing is so funny because, we decided obviously to go down the road with Anchorman, and we made what I thought was a really great sequel, really funny.
The entertainment media and fans beg you, and beg you, and beg you for sequels, and then you make it and you definitely have a fraction that’s like, ‘Well, not as good as the first one.’
So I guess it’s a catch-22. It’s a nice catch-22, because people love the movies in the first place.
Talking to Cinema Blend, McKay added:
It is very possible in five years, because I don’t think the Step Brothers idea gets worse the older these guys get.
We could all look at each other and go, ‘All right, let’s go do it.’ A while ago I said, ‘No way we’re doing it.’
But I thought about it. I was like, ‘Why am I saying that? We definitely could end up doing that.’ So who knows?
Here are the most successful movie franchises:
Okay, so ELF brought us Christmas Cheer for all to hear, Blades of Glory brought us Jon Heder in a jumpsuit and the Flying Lotus, and The Other Guys brought us one of the most bizarre marital relationships to grace the silver screen courtesy of Eva Mendes’ comedic acting.
The Campaign saw Ferrell and Zack Galifianakis double up to pre-empt the ridiculous nature of modern day politics in America, with funny effect.
You can watch the trailer below:
Stranger Than Fiction saw a departure from the immature adult baby Ferrell usually plays, with surprisingly beautiful effect, thanks in the main to a wonderfully charming premise.
And don’t even mention Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.
Watch that trailer at your own peril:
In short, Step Brothers, in my humble opinion, is film’s answer to a musical combination of Fergie and Jesus and is Will Ferrell’s best feature-length performance.
Stay Golden, Ponyboy.
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A former emo kid who talks too much about 8Chan meme culture, the Kardashian Klan, and how her smartphone is probably killing her. Francesca is a Cardiff University Journalism Masters grad who has done words for BBC, ELLE, The Debrief, DAZED, an art magazine you’ve never heard of and a feminist zine which never went to print.