What Makes Us Laugh: Step Brothers


Each month the Cinelinx staff will write a handful of articles covering a specified film-related topic. These articles will be notified by the Movielinx banner. Movielinx is an exploration and discussion of our personal connections with film. We’ll even submit reviews of the films we discuss so that you can get a better idea of what we’re talking about. April is National Humor Month, and because of this we will honor comedy in film. What makes you laugh? Feel free to add your own comments or reviews of movies that tickle your funny bone.


Let’s not lie to each other, the selection of comedic movies the past few years have been lackluster. Our once go to comedic geniuses like Adam Sandler and Jim Carrey are creating some really unfunny comedies. Fortunately though, there is one comedy icon and duo that hardly fail to make us laugh and that is the team of Will Ferrell and Adam McKay. Since the dynamic duo’s meeting and collaborating on “Saturday Night Live” to their film debut of Anchorman to now, they have been producing pretty solid and hilarious movies. Adam McKay usually is the man behind the camera directing and Will Ferrell stars while the both collaborate writing. One film of their in particular that is highly underrated and the funniest is Step Brothers. Fun fact, McKay actually wanted to write this as a drama but turned out I guess being too funny to be serious, I feel like it ended up benefitting way much more as a comedy anyway.

Step Brothers tells the story of two 40 year old boys, Dale (Will Ferrell) and Brennan (John C. Reilly), who still live with their single parents, Dale with his dad and Brennan with his mom. Their parents get together and get married they give both Brennan and Dale an deadline of get a job and move out within a month and that is when chaos ensues. They deal with their parents attempting to sell their house, Brennan’s douchebag and way more successful little brother Derek (Adam Scott), and preteen bullies beating the crap of out of them. 

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Ultimately a pretty simple sounding comedy right? But it is so much more and so much better than you expect. This movie pushes the boundaries so much with white dog feces and testicles touching drum sets and yet, in the end, you’re not offended but instead hunched over dying from laughter. It all works. 

Take the dialogue for instance, much like any McKay/Ferrell collaboration is so goofy and sometimes gross but still spot on. This movie has some of the best one-liners and unlike those obnoxiously overused Napoleon Dynamite sayings, these get better with age. I know whenever I move around some furniture I like to jump around and say “So much room for activities!” and see if the other person that’s helping me gets it or thinks I’m just crazy. Also whenever someone has a scrape on them don’t we all yell “There’s so much blood!” now?

The movie also had a lot of really entertaining music that heightened the hilarity. For instance, the now famous “Boats and Hoes” rap done by Dale and Brennan. Who knows that could have helped pave the way or assisted such acts as The Lonely Island on “Saturday Night Live” with their funny white guy raps like “I’m On A Boat” and “Dick in a Box.” Adam McKay actually announced that they were going to be creating a rap album for them but unfortunately plans fell through. Not only the rapping but who can forget Will Ferrell’s epic ballad at the end? It was such a random added bonus that fit into this crazy comedy perfectly and yes that is actually Ferrell’s voice singing “Por Ti Volare,” a spanish version of Andrea Bocelli’s “Con te Partiro.” That’s actually John C. Reilly drumming away too. Earlier in the film, Dale describes Brennan’s voice “a mixture of Fergie and Jesus” and you know what? He’s kind of right. 

The characters are all different and contain such strong personalities too, even the supporting ones like Derek and my favorite, his wife Alice (played by Kathryn Hahn) who secretly wants to have an affair with Dale. Alice plays a sort of zombie in front of everyone but once she gets Dale alone to herself she goes nuts with saying some crazy funny stuff about wishing she could shove Dale up into her you-know-where and how he could live there. There’s even a scene of her peeing like a man in the men’s room after her and Dale have sex telling him to “Stay golden, pony boy!” Honestly she is in the movie less than ten minutes and she’s one of the funniest characters in the entire movie. Even the dad played by Richard Jenkins is great. He is an actor with such range that can play serious critically-acclaimed films like The Visitor to blockbuster action movies like White House Down to slapstick gross comedies like Step Brothers and shine in each one. In Step Brothers, he pretty much is at his wit’s end with Brennan and Dale and it is really funny to see his arc in the entire film and he does a killer tyrannosaurs rex impression. The same goes for John C. Reilly though, definitely an underrated actor that can play in nearly any genre. Will Ferrell is equally excellent, but were you expecting any less?

What it comes down to is that the easiest comedies are the best. Comedies and stories just about people. This is a comedy essentially about family and dealing with growing up and that is really all you need for it to be funny and hilarious. What isn’t funny about dysfunctional families? Studios don’t need to overkill comedies like making more parody movies or apocalypse movies, they just need to stick to just comedy movies about relationships because that is what works. That is why I enjoyed this movie because unlike the other McKay/Ferrell collaborations, it isn’t about a famous anchorman or a famous race car driver it’s about regular people being stupid and in it’s simplicity that makes Step Brothers excel in being a favorite and what makes us laugh.

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