Why is the new Will Ferrell-John C. Reilly comedy called Step Brothers? I’ve known that stepbrothers is a single unhyphenated word since I took part in sixth-grade spelling bees. Is your mother’s mother your “grand mother” or “grandmother”? I hate how marketing guys always do it their own way, get it wrong, thumb their nose at civilization.
Step Brothers, in any event, is not funny. I sat there like an Easter Island statue. No chuckles; not even a smile. I need to say right now that anyone who goes this weekend and laughs uproariously is showing their colors. I’m not saying it’ll mark you as a mongrel for finding it amusing but if you laugh heartily and repeatedly it will say something about your level of refinement and your vistas. The movie is a wallow — a crew of actors sloshing around in a mocha-colored whipped-mud pit and going “who-hooaaa!…being covered in slop is friggin’ hilarious, so the more the funnier….yahhhh!”
I’ll admit that I found the premise — a couple of 40 year-olds (Ferrell, Reilly) still living with their respective single parents and being forced to share a domain when their parents decide to get married — amusing on the surface. But I realized early on that immaturity in and of itself isn’t funny. It never is or has been. Think back — when has a contemporary acting like an immature twit at any age ever been amusing? In your own life, I mean.
I’ll admit that some of what Ferrell and O’Reilly get into is mildly diverting if you’re a good-natured person who likes to be charitable (people were laughing at the screening I attended), but that’s neither here nor there.
The premise connects because the age of supposed maturity (attaining mellow emotionality, knowing how to tie your shoelaces, getting down to a career, etc.) has been taking longer and longer with each generation, and we all know this and probably want to laugh at it to alleviate our concerns.
Guys who came out of World War I felt compelled to get down to marriage and raising kids in their early 20s. Then again the F. Scott Fitzgerald/Ernest Hemingway “lost generation” of the 1920s was the first to put stuff off as they wallowed in personal issues. The Depression toughened the nation up and kept almost everyone (except for the Beats of the late 1940s and ’50s) on the straight and narrow until the mid ’60s when all cultural hell broke loose. It was nonetheless considered a mark of at least some shame in the ’70s for anyone to have delayed on Big Life Moves until their late 20s or early 30s.
The state of social devolution has continued unabated since the ’70s, to the point that it’s now considered totally normal for immature guys to kick around well into their 30s and sometimes into their early 40s. Ten or twenty years from now it’ll be considered almost normal for guys to start thinking about coming to grips with maturity when they hit 45 or 50.
The world is culturally devolving, disassembling and swirling down the toilet bowl. That’s why Step Brothers is a downer — it’s essentially a meditation about the end of the world. I’m kind of kidding, yes, but not altogether. Because the world is ending, in a sense. Mamma Mia! is another indicator. Ditto the red-state bumpkins who resent Barack Obama for wallowin’ around in Afghanistan and Europe instead of taking care of business back home.