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Step Brothers

Dumb and Dumberest

Brennan and Dale are losers. What else can you say about a pair of unemployed forty-somethings who live with their parents and waste their days watching reruns of "Cops"? They are infantile, irresponsible and seemingly incapable of any emotion besides anger. And their pet peeves include…well, pretty much everything.

When their long-suffering single parents (played by Mary Steenburgen and Richard Jenkins) fall in love at first sight, it is only a matter of time before Brennan and Dale become family, setting the stage for a series of knockdown brawls and colorfully worded temper tantrums that must have seemed amusing to someone, most likely the movie’s co-authors and stars, Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly.

Ferrell and Reilly have been funny before (most recently in 2006’s Talladega Nights) and will be again because they are intelligent actors with an undeniable gift for physical comedy. Here, they wring a few big laughs out of an otherwise disposable story, but that’s a backhanded compliment at best. Step Brothers is cheap, lazy entertainment, inspired, if you can call it that, by the cynical notion that tasteless sex and gratuitous violence is funny, no matter what the context.

It’s not. Oh, it can be funny, in a movie that respects its audience enough to work for the laughs, but Step Brothers is content to coast on the reputations of its two leads. That’s nothing new for Farrell, whose web-based short films reflect an imaginative spirit sorely missing from his most recent big-screen endeavors. The law of diminishing returns has rarely been more in evidence.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars