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Step Brothers: 2-Disc Unrated Widescreen Edition DVD Review

Step Brothers movie poster Step Brothers

Theatrical Release: July 25, 2008 / Running Time: 98 Minutes (Theatrical Version), 105 Minutes (Extended Edition) / Rating: R (Theatrical), Unrated (Extended)

Director: Adam McKay / Writers: Will Ferrell, Adam McKay (story & screenplay), John C. Reilly (story)

Cast: Will Ferrell (Brennan Huff), John C. Reilly (Dale Doback), Richard Jenkins (Dr. Robert Doback), Mary Steenburgen (Nancy Huff), Adam Scott (Derek Huff), Kathryn Hahn (Alice Huff), Andrea Savage (Denise), Rob Riggle (Randy), Lurie Poston (Tommy Huff), Elizabeth Yozamp (Tiffany), Logan Manus (Chris Garboki), Travis Flory (Redheaded Kid), Lili McKay (7-Year-Old Girl)

Buy Step Brothers from Amazon.com: 2-Disc DVD / 1-Disc Unrated DVD / 1-Disc R-Rated DVD / 2-Disc Unrated Blu-ray

This year, for the third time in five summers, Will Ferrell starred in an Adam McKay-directed film produced by Judd Apatow. Step Brothers reunites Ferrell with his Talladega Nights co-star John C. Reilly. Rather than continuing to play in the lucrative, accessible PG-13 domain,
Ferrell, Reilly and McKay went a different direction here, aspiring to the levels of raunch found in the recent comedies Apatow is most known for and earning a hard R rating in the process.

As the prologue tells us, Nancy Huff (Mary Steenburgen) and Robert Doback (Richard Jenkins) are two professionals who find love (or maybe just lust) at first sight in one another and soon after marry. Each enters the relationship with an adult son from a previous marriage still living at home. Nancy's son Brennan (Ferrell) and Robert's son Dale (John C. Reilly) are life-long slackers who take mankind's widely-celebrated arrested development phase to new heights. Though their hearts tell them they're musicians (Brennan, a singer; Dale, a drummer), the 40-year-old boys have no aspirations or achievements beyond the ones they invent for boasts.

The tale spun of nuclear families blending through remarriage is one meant for attractive thirtysomething parents and precocious pre-adolescent children. The clever twist of Step Brothers is that the parents are on the verge of retirement and the kids are middle-agers whose immaturity knows no bounds. It's an inspired conceit and one that could have been genius with sharper vision.

Brennan Huff (Will Ferrell) and Dale Doback (John C. Reilly) become stepbrothers when their long-single supportive parents marry. Brennan and Dale ask their Mom (Mary Steenburgen) and Dad (Richard Jenkins) for permission to build bunk beds.

There's no denying that Ferrell and Reilly are funny men in their own right. Throw them together under the same roof and the humor is not added but multiplied. Though he doesn't appear to be in the "can do no wrong" class he flirted with longer than most comedy leading men, Ferrell remains nearly unparalleled at creating a witty personality and getting all he can from it. Brennan isn't as defined and iconic as the actor's memorably braggart, humorously shallow protagonists of the past. But we immediately recognize the character as temperamental, foul-mouthed, and socially stunted.

All three of those labels also apply to Dale Doback, who Reilly skillfully embodies. Reilly's 20-year career in film has interestingly taken a path opposite to the more common one of comedies paving the way for dramatic, indie, and award-contending fare. I can't say I mind. His Dr. Steve Brule character on Adult Swim's "Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!" is one of the oddest, most hilarious creations on television today. And his more prominent work in Walk Hard and here shows that he and comedic cinema have a mutually fulfilling arrangement with a mighty promising future.

Step Brothers is at its best when it's simply letting Ferrell and Reilly do their thing together. Roommates Dale and Brennan are funny when they initially refuse to give each other a chance (instead threatening each other in low voices, so as not to wake Mom and Dad). They're also funny when they get along, discovering the similar tastes and interests that make them kindred spirits. When the film tries to put them back at odds again, it begins to sputter.

Recovering Dale and Brennan are anything but pleased to hear they'll need to get jobs or be out on their own in one month. Standing in contrast to our two leads is Brendan's brother Derek (Adam Scott), who here leads his family in a car a capella rendition of "Sweet Child o' Mine."

McKay reaches for the heart part that softens Apatovian bawdiness and usually delights critics and moviegoers. Though the attempts stay painless and do not invoke morality or sentimentality, they don't quite succeed or make sense amidst an otherwise off-the-wall tone. Having Dale and Brennan grow up and face real adult concerns with maturity and montage does not make for a satisfying third act. But even as the movie runs out of steam and tries to place its characters in a fairly contrived and predictable story, it keeps us happy uncovering enough good ideas (such as striking wardrobe choices and a likeable though not uproarious musical finale).

Step Brothers has some good and bad surprises. Among the former, Oscar winner Mary Steenburgen and this year's hopeful Richard Jenkins claim substantial roles that mainstream cinema doesn't usually offer actors of their age. Those ages were 54 and 60 during filming, making them quite young and stable to have 40-year-old sons. Their fine performances dismiss such concerns, as both prove unexpectedly capable at swearing, taking hits, and being reasonably funny.

Less inspiring is the movie's eagerness to offend. The excessive vulgarity is a hindrance. On the one hand, there's definitely freedom to be found in an R rating and it's refreshing to not have things leashed to the safety of PG-13. But lines of taste are too often crossed, as overuse renders the profanity meaningless and the apparent efforts to push obscenity further than ever come at the expense of storytelling. Without the emphasis on being filthy, this could have been a new comedy classic. Instead, it registers as largely entertaining but with some cringe-worthy moments.

Dale surprises Brennan's job interviewer by popping out as his teammate. All smiles, the Huffs and Dobacks are one big happy blended family. Or at least that's what it looks like at the Catalina Wine Mixer.

Step Brothers was one of several films this summer challenging the once widely accepted notion that an R rating hurts a major release's chances with audiences. Earning just over $100 million domestically, the movie didn't reach the heights of Talladega Nights or Ferrell's ice skating comedy Blades of Glory. But it easily cleared the reported $65 M budget and outperformed the most recent Apatow productions (which, although still highly profitable, have been on the decline since 2007's Knocked Up/Superbad 1-2 punch).

This week, Step Brothers comes to DVD and Blu-ray. Per the latest trends for Sony blockbusters, the movie arrives in just a single Blu-ray Disc SKU but three DVD varieties. Among the DVDs offered are single-disc Theatrical and Unrated editions. Though they carry the same $28.96 list price, the Unrated is the clearly superior deal by holding both the theatrical and unrated cuts. The third DVD edition, a 2-Disc Unrated Widescreen Edition, is the subject of this review. It too holds both the R-rated theatrical cut and the unrated extended one, while adding a digital copy and some exclusive bonus features.

The unrated cut runs 7 minutes longer than the theatrical version. It has a few short extensions here and there, but its most noticeable addition is a new sex scene between Dale and Alice (Kathryn Hahn), the unsatisfied wife of Dale's other stepbrother, the loathsome, demeaning achiever Derek (Adam Scott). Though the coitus doesn't change the film's no-nudity status (prosthetic scrotum excluded), it gives more time to the already discomforting affair subplot while joylessly extending the Huff-Dobacks' Christmas dinner. There are much better deletions on the set that would have added more with reinsertion. Accordingly, the tighter theatrical cut is a little stronger overall.

Buy Step Brothers: 2-Disc Unrated Widescreen Edition DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

2.40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French)
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Closed Captioned; Extras not subtitled
Release Date: December 2, 2008
Suggested Retail Price: $34.95
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (DVD-9s)
Black Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available in 1-Disc Unrated Widescreen Edition DVD, 1-Disc Theatrical Widescreen Edition DVD,
and on 2-Disc Unrated Edition Blu-ray


Step Brothers' DVDs feature the word "widescreen" in the edition moniker. That's odd because no fullscreen alternative is offered. The 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation is just swell. Fitting two cuts on one side of the disc appears to have no negative effects. The high contrast picture is satisfyingly sharp and clean. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack makes little use of the rear channels, but delivers an energetic and fine experience all the same. The feature is subtitled, but, in opposition to current trends, bonus features are not.

Dale and Brennan open up in an extended green-tinted night vision goggle scene in their joint bedroom. Will Ferrell has several disparaging remarks about his new stepfather, seen in Line-O-Rama. It had to happen sooner or later; the gag reel shows John C. Reilly and Will Ferrell crack up while filming one of many ridiculous scenes from "Step Brothers."


While Sony sometimes varies special features between single-disc and double-disc versions (as on the recent Hancock), here the studio takes the more common approach of having Disc 1 replicate the single-disc Unrated Edition. A modest supply of extras is housed on Disc 1, with Disc 2's exclusives providing much more deleted/extended/alternate content.

Topping Disc 1's supplements is an audio commentary by Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, and director Adam McKay. With composer Jon Brion scoring, they make this the world's first musical commentary. You may not believe it,

but off-the-cuff observations are much funnier in song, especially from witty people thinking on their feet. Among the topics sung about are eating salty foods on camera, working with salty Robert Duvall, a disheartened choreographer, the making of $25,000 prosthetic balls, the tough lives of actors, green screen (with hilariously anachronous examples from cinema's past), chewing tobacco, and the commentary itself. To prevent the gag from getting tiresome, they fall back into normal speech between numbers. Also, NBA player Baron Davis is randomly called in for the middle stretch to talk about the league and his opponents and to answer and ask questions. Those opposed to commentary should still give this funny track a listen. It's not too informative, but then does it need to be when it's more than entertaining?

Six Extended & Alternate Scenes (17:30) are the first of many extras along the same lines. Like those that follow, these ones have diverting material but not enough to sustain inclusion in full. The featured scenes include a lengthy heart-to-heart in night vision goggles, Dale and Brennan's differing enjoyment of their Christmas Eve gifts, and more of Rob Riggle's "Pow" guy character Randy, who seems to have been given the most cuts.

Apatow DVD staple "Line-O-Rama" (5:53) serves us a barrage of alternate lines, most from Ferrell, Reilly, and Adam Scott. A gag reel (4:10) consists largely of actors breaking into laughter. Both features cull many of their outtakes from deleted/extended scenes.

Huff 'n Doback rap about Boats 'n Hoes in a deliberately low-quality music video. Director Adam McKay smiles at the sight of Will Ferrell beating a shirtless John C. Reilly (safely, with a rubber bat) in "The Making of Step Brothers." Dale sports a nice Pirate Peanuts shirt while taking an unexpected phone call in one of Disc 2's few completely deleted scenes.

Next comes Huff 'n Doback's "Boats 'n Hoes" (1:50) music video in fullscreen and in full. The lewdness of the guys' sexual lyrics becomes a lot more evident and upsetting here.

"The Making of Step Brothers" (22:00) is a good general production featurette, the type that's become somewhat uncommon, especially for a comedy like this. Cast/crew interviews and B-roll footage paint a full, earnest look at the film's casting, heavy improvisation and atmosphere of fun. It's one of the set's best and most complete extras.

Disc 1 opens with trailers for Pineapple Express, The Pink Panther 2, and Oscar bait Synecdoche New York. The disc's easily and automatically accessed Previews menu holds these and additional spots for The Wackness and Hancock.

Disc 2's bonus features begin with six Deleted Scenes (9:30). These short, self-contained bits spend more time with many of the lead characters, but do not provide much entertainment value.

Brennan proudly displays his "majestic wolf lamp" in the hilarious deleted scene "Show and Tell." Seth Rogen is one of six potential employers whose longer, fuller job interviews of Dale and Brennan  are preserved on Disc 2. Brennan gets friendly with his psychologist Denise (Andrea Savage) in one of Disc 2's seven unseen therapy sessions.

Ten Extended & Alternate Scenes (21:25) follow. These offer a mixed bag; some such as Dale and Brennan's possession comparison (involving a rare Chewbacca PEZ dispenser and a majestic wolf lamp) are plenty funny,
others are much less so (like the stepbrothers' long, grossly graphic sex talk while paging through digitally blurred porn mags). There are also Dale and Brennan's wedding toasts, alternate house showings, amusing hungry 911 calls, and more time spent with Randy.

Ten Job Interviews (29:07) show us alternate, extended, and deleted versions of the tuxedoed stepbrothers' meetings with six potential employers (played by Craig Robinson, Gillian Vigman, Brian Huskey, director Adam McKay, Ed Helms, and Seth Rogen). Each interview starts promisingly before going south. Several of them are given multiple edits. Generally, the improvised-feeling scenes see how far they can take gags like mishearing "HR lady" Pam Gringe's name, turning the interview around to quiz the interviewer, misunderstanding drug testing, and their James Bond-like appearances. Although much of it goes too far, there's definitely some amusing material (such as when Rogen hires them) here that didn't make the film.

"Therapy" (13:35) supplies seven unseen sessions of Dale and Brennan with their respective psychologists (Ian Roberts, Andrea Savage). Not only do they further show off the improvisational talents of Reilly and Ferrell, but they also contain a number of funny bits in the process.

Dale and Brennan talk up Prestige Worldwide in the full birthday dinner restaurant presentation. Dale has an alternate burn for Brennan in the heated argument that leads to fisticuffs. Composer Jon Brion plays guitar in the featurette that celebrates his "Step Brothers" music.

"Prestige Worldwide Full Presentation" (4:50) provides an extended version of Dale and Brennan's dinner business pitch. It gives us a better idea of what their all-purpose entertainment plans encompass, but without enough comedy to fuel a sequence of this length.

"Dale vs. Brennan" (6:50) shows us unused/alternate barbs in four of the stepsiblings' matches of verbal one-upmanship. Like just about everything else, some of it's funny, some of it's over-the-top, and viewers will vary in deciding where that line is drawn.

Next comes "The Music of Step Brothers" (18:12), an unexpectedly detailed and serious look at the work of composer Jon Brion and other musicians on the film. The piece covers four features of the soundtrack: a saccharine '60s family film score, a rock band composed of Deerhoof and Wilco members, a one-man quartet, and original song in the style of a '60s standard ("The Family Bible"). It's not a topic that seems to deserve such attention, nor is it one that will hold most viewers' attention in its entirety.

There's a new stepsibling in the mix when Charlyne Yi "Moves In." "L'Amour en Caravane" documents the offscreen romance of Richard Jenkins and Mary Steenburgen with celebrity cameos and a surprise ending. Dale and Brennan calmly look in opposite directions while a photo depicting one of their most hostile encounters flies by.

"Charlyne Moves In" (7:18) is a short mockumentary that tells us of an Asian girl who crashes on the set and works her way into Step Brothers. The girl is Charlyne Yi, a funny supporting player from Knocked Up. Although it's interesting to see everyone in on the joke (including Mary Steenburgen and Richard Jenkins),
it never exceeds mild diversion. That puts it on the same level as more ambitious fake bonuses on other Apatow DVDs.

Far more successful is "L'Amour en Caravane" (12:02), another faux featurette. This one humorously documents an offscreen romance which brews between Richard Jenkins and Mary Steenburgen. Kathryn Hahn, Adam Scott, and Steenburgen's real-life husband Ted Danson play supporting roles in this absurdly funny set drama that ends with a "Curb Your Enthusiasm" vibe, complete with a special cameo.

Finally, we get Step Brothers' red band trailer (2:25), which promotes the film with tastes of its abundant profanity. Marketing material as supplementing (not marketing) is always a welcome bonus, but the general audiences trailer was the more impressive feat.

Other Previews are also included, ranging from 15-second DVD promos to full theatrical trailers. These promote Superbad, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, The International, The House Bunny, 88 Minutes, 21, Vantage Point, Prom Night, "King of Queens" Seasons 1-9, Balls Out: Gary the Tennis Coach, Resident Evil: Degeneration, and Blu-ray Disc.

Disc 2 opens with a short preview for Digital Copy that's also available from the feature's dedicated menu. With two pitches for it, of course you'll find a digital copy of Step Brothers included on the disc, as two case stickers proclaim.

The menus place character cut-outs in drawn environments while featuring looped musical selections (most of these are just plain score, but a couple give us the full songs "Boats 'n Hoes" and "The Family Bible"). Only the discs' recycled main menu and Disc 1's transitions use animation to liven up the motif.

The 2-disc edition of Step Brothers has differing cover art to distinguish it from the single-disc versions. Paying a premium gets you the less striking (but more accurate) imagery of Drew and Brennan at war. The poster and 1-disc's more peaceful artwork still makes it to the spine. The requisite slipcover is pure cardboard redundancy, repeating everything below. Inside the keepcase, a 1-sided insert gives you a unique code for unlocking the set's digital copy and transferring to a PC and/or PSP/PlayStation 3.

Brennan and Dale take the stage from '80s Billy Joel cover band Uptown Girl for a rendition of Andrea Bocelli's "Por ti Volare." If you're one of those people who assume the movie's done when the credits start rolling, you'll miss one of funniest scenes in "Step Brothers." With a flying kick, Dale and Brennan begin their quest for schoolyard vengeance.


Although Step Brothers doesn't reach its full potential,
it still stands as one of the year's funniest comedies. The talents and chemistry of Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly fuel this blended family tale that is racier than it should be, but nevertheless amuses in spades. Among Ferrell vehicles, this one isn't as satisfying as some (Elf, Anchorman, Blades of Glory), but it's better than others (Semi-Pro, Talladega Nights).

If you're going to buy Step Brothers on DVD, the 2-disc edition makes the most sense. For just a few dollars more, you get over two hours of exclusive bonus features, much of it deleted material in the entertaining style of the film. There's also a digital copy, should you care about that. If you're not a real extras junkie, the single-disc's adequate offerings will satisfy. If you go that route, buy the unrated edition to get that option, but watch its superior theatrical cut instead.

More on the DVD / Buy Step Brothers from Amazon.com:
2-Disc DVD / 1-Disc Unrated DVD / 1-Disc Theatrical DVD / 2-Disc Blu-ray

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Related Reviews:
Starring Will Ferrell: Semi-Pro • Blades of Glory • A Night at the Roxbury • The Wendell Baker Story
From Producer Judd Apatow: Knocked Up • Superbad • Drillbit Taylor (Extended Survival Edition) • The TV Set
New to DVD: Tropic Thunder (2-Disc Director's Cut) • Hancock • Fred Claus • A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All!
Summer Movies: The Foot Fist Way • WALL•E • Kung Fu Panda • Sex and the City • Get Smart • Journey to the Center of the Earth
Featuring John C. Reilly: Chicago (Razzle-Dazzle Edition) • Dark Water (Unrated)

Netflix, Inc.

Other Step Brothers Cast Members:
Mary Steenburgen: One Magic Christmas • Nixon (Election Year Edition) | Richard Jenkins: Shall We Dance? (2004)
Adam Scott: Boy Meets World: The Complete Second Season | Kathryn Hahn: The Last Mimzy

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Reviewed November 30, 2008.

Text copyright 2008 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2008 Columbia Pictures, Relativity Media, Apatow Productions, Mosaic Media Group, Gary Sanchez Productions,
and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.