Stepbrothers (2008) — It’s never too late to find your best bud

“Can we turn our beds into bunkbeds?”

Justin’s rating: It’s an Indian burn to my soul

Justin’s review: Comedy and raunch have a long history together, dating waaaay back to the first fart joke told at Caesar’s palace. Reportedly, this was well-received by the audience but not Caesar, who had a sinus infection that was only magnified by the ill-timing of the gaseous release. Since then, it’s been like a little sneaky game for comedy writers and stand up comedians to try to work in the most outrageous jokes, gags, and gross-outs into their work under the theory that sometimes the raunchiest things, if told with deft timing, can get an audience rolling on the floor.

The problem is that once you start going down this path, there’s really no line that prevents further pushing of the envelope. It never ends, it just gets grosser and more offensive until people don’t know whether to laugh or flee in terror that a human mind could think up something this wrong.

Lately we’ve seen resurgence in the raunchy R-rated comedy, where it seems like no boundaries exist. Some of it’s been great – genuinely funny, with true heart, even though I can’t condone how it’s told (The 40-Year-Old Virgin). Some of it’s been so repulsively disgusting that I’ve actually left the theater midway though because whatever laughs lay in store simply weren’t worth sitting through that much muck (Superbad). The weird thing is that, if these writers took a step back, they’d realize that 90% of their movie would still work, still be just as funny, even if they stripped it of the ick parts and the constant stream of swear words. Comedians can’t seem to understand that, I guess.

So this is my caveat when it comes to Step Brothers: It is raunchy, very much so. And it is hilarious, very much so. Whether or not the laughs are worth the raunch, or the raunch is too much is your call. I can see it breaking both ways.

As their single parents get married and move in together during the opening credits, middle-aged men Brennan (Will Farrell) and Dale (John C. Reilly) are forced to live together as well in this newly formed family. You see, even though they should be pushing into a mid-life crisis, they never really left their adolescent stage, mooching off the folks while engaging in all manner of man-child frivolity.

At first, Brennan and Date hate each others guts, but then become best friends. This is to the horror of their parents, who have to deal with the destructive nature of two large men who can’t act above a seven-year-old mentality.

If you need a theme, “Growing up while holding on to the dream that makes you you” is it, but let’s be honest with ourselves. Step Brothers is just a giant excuse for Farrell and Reilly to playact like small kids again, and they have a blast doing it. They fight like little kids, they get excited about childish things (like making a bunkbed), they think that starting a band is supercool, and they can’t understand what might possibly be wrong with burying each other alive when they don’t get their own way.

As I said, this part is hands-down hilarious. The theater I was in was rolling, and I haven’t seen my wife laugh – or wince – this hard in a long time, at least not since I did my gorilla impression at the zoo, complete with antagonizing the little kids who came in my “habitat.” I wouldn’t want to ruin any of the best moments, but once Dale and Brennan get started, they keep the funny going consistently until the end (with a pause for the requisite “sad moment of realization before the end thing that makes everything better”).

Still, as I left the theater, I didn’t really want anyone I knew to have seen me come out from there. Unless you’ve completely killed off your sense of morality and standards, it’s hard not to feel a little dirty and ashamed, like the time one of my friends went with her mom to see Boogie Nights, completely misunderstanding what the film would be about. It’s too bad that Judd Apatow and his cronies can’t figure out how to make people laugh without firing an F-word machine gun at them and then slapping around some genitals for good effect.

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