THAT’S NOT ROTTEN! The Hidden Maturity of ‘Step Brothers’


With THAT’S NOT ROTTEN, Sean picks a movie deemed rotten on Rotten Tomatoes and illustrates why it’s better than thought.

It’s safe to say that I find most of Will Ferrell’s lead comedic performances to be on the grating side. He’s a fine comedic actor, yet his tendency to push his performance to self-aware extremes diminishes the humorous content for me. It’s not entirely on Ferrell, however, as most of the supporting players are trying to play on his level. Everything takes on the feeling of a whirlwind of silliness where the numbers of gags that miss take away from the ones that work. With 2008’s Step Brothers, Ferrell along with co-star John C. Reilly and director Adam McKay made their most mature, subdued, and hilarious work to date.

The premise of Step Brothers is rather straightforward. Will Ferrell is Brennan Huff. He is 39, unemployed, and lives with his mother Nancy (Mary Steenburgen). Conversely, John C. Reilly is Dale Doback. He is 40, unemployed, and lives with his father Robert (Richard Jenkins). When their parents meet and get married, the two men trapped in a state of permanent adolescence must figure out how to live together. Part of Step Brothers’ charms is how quickly it gets the set-up of its premise out of the way. From there the film focuses on the attempts of Brennan and Dale to get along, and the collateral damage along the way. But when Brennan’s brother Derek (Adam Scott) comes to visit, he provides Dale and Brennan a common enemy and they quickly become close friends. Of course, the story doesn’t end there as further conflict is introduced that tests the limits of the step brothers’ burgeoning partnership.


As much as Step Brothers mines humor from the selfish, permanent adolescence of Brennan and Dale, the film as a whole is much more concerned with the effects of their behavior. When their relationship grows stronger, their actions drive a wedge between Nancy and Robert. But Adam McKay and company are smart enough to equally distribute blame among all parties involved. Step Brothers is just as much an indictment against the enablers of permanent adolescence as well those mired in it. Though Brennan and Dale’s behavior is, in many instances, deplorable, the film doesn’t take their parents off the hook for allowing them to get to this point. The inability of either Nancy or Robert to discipline their children when they actually could resulted in their being tethered to their adult children. As much as Robert wants to encourage the two to seek employment, they’ve been fostered in an environment that has left them incapable of being productive members of society.

There’s also this overwhelming denial about the people in their lives that runs through all the film’s main characters. Brennan and Dale don’t want admit that they’re anything but normal people, let alone that their behavior has a negative effect on their parents. Brennan’s brother Derek doesn’t want to realize that he’s stuck in a loveless marriage, even though the signs are right in front of his face. Nancy doesn’t want to admit that her one son is a screw-up and the other a total douchebag. Conversely, Robert realizes the situation, loses his blinders, and drives himself into a depressed drunken stupor. Of course, the one person who sees thing for what they are in this twisted family slowly descends into a resentful rage.



Easily, the funniest moment of the film is when Brennan and Dale go on a series of job interviews set up for them by Robert. Choosing the fanciest suit of Robert’s they could borrow, the duo dress themselves in tuxedos for their multiple interviews. Of course, neither is able to get a job and basically offend every potential employer. This is exemplified by their issues in figuring out the pronunciation and spelling of the name Pam. Within this short sequence, you can see just how well Ferrell and Reilly are at working together. They’re able to amplify their comic energy to the levels of a child throwing a tantrum in a toy aisle and take it down to the child pouting in the corner while on timeout. But the two are so adept at selling these moments by never really playing to the camera – there’s a naturalism to their insanity.

The film concludes by having Robert and Nancy splitting up. Dale and Brennan are also forced to split. Each begins to make their own way and eventually reunite at the Catalina Wine Mixer, a yearly event that is important to Derek’s business. Brennan has hired Uptown Girl, “California’s preeminent 1980s Billy Joel cover band.” When the singer of the band snaps after hearing endless requests for non-‘80s Billy Joel music, Dale and Brennan team up with Dale on drums and Brennan overcoming his fear of rejection and singing. Their rousing performance changes the hearts and minds of their loved one and leads everyone to a happy ending. Any joke built upon the foundation that Billy Joel sucks will win me over every single time.


The happiest of endings.

Step Brothers will endure the test of time because it is a very funny movie. However, it’s something more because it is so willing to look at its immature characters through the lens of maturity. But it also stands out because of its focus on the causes and consequences of these 40-year-old children. And if a movie ends with two 40-year-old children physically attacking a group of children in order to teach them actions have consequences, it can’t be all bad, right? As a matter of fact, it’s pretty great.

Shop Deadpool tees in our officially licensed Marvel store!

Leave a Reply

Animation/Anime Interviews Animation/Anime News Animation/Anime Reviews Film/TV Interviews Film/TV News Film/TV Review
The Tiger Hunter
Now on Blu-ray: ‘The Tiger Hunter’ Glides by with its Charming Heart

Always a hot-button issue, the topic of immigration has recently dominated...

'12 Strong' Press Conference
Chris Hemsworth and the Cast and Crew of ’12 Strong’ Discuss Bringing the Declassified True Story to the Big Screen

In the days after 9/11, as the United States grieved the...

Shout! Factory Unleashes Joe Dante’s Cult Classic ‘Matinee’ on Blu-ray

We’re at this point in pop culture where everything seems to...

Enabled Gaming Gaming News Gaming Reviews
Vr Change
Guest Author: Katie Green – How Might VR Change the Way We Play

Super Guest Author, Katie Green, shares how VR might change the...

Yu-Gi-Oh Wave of Light
A Big Wave is Coming – Yu-Gi-Oh Wave of Light Structure Deck Releases Friday

A big wave is coming in the form of light, Yu-Gi-Oh...

Yu-Gi-Oh Lost Cards
Ancient Treasures Uncovered – Yu-Gi-Oh Lost Art Cards

Beginning in February, ancient treasures will be revealed and fans will...

Comic Creator Interviews Comic/Graphic Novel News Comic/Graphic Novel Reviews Manga News Manga Reviews Novel/Novella Author Interviews Novel/Novella News Novel/Novella Reviews
Die Hard Christmas
The Greatest Christmas Movie Becomes The Greatest Christmas Book – A Die Hard Christmas Review

The greatest Christmas movie ever made becomes the greatest Christmas storybook...

‘The 49th Key’ is a Familiar Story Told with Soul

Title: The 49th Key Written by: Erika Lewis Art by: J.K....

Tick Tock, Tick Tock, the ‘Doomsday Clock’ is about to Strike!

Title: Doomsday Clock #1 Writer: Geoff Johns Artist: Gary Frank Colorist:...

Apparel/Personal Maintenance News Apparel/Personal Maintenance Reviews Entertainment Product News Entertainment Product Reviews Food/Beverage Reviews Hardware News Hardware Reviews Mystery Box News Mystery Box Reviews
WWE Slam Crate Starts the Year Off Right

In just two weeks time WWE’s Royal Rumble not only continues...

January’s Loot Crate is Here!

January is a month where resolutions are made, hopes are extended...

Yu-Gi-Oh Kaiba
Yu-Gi-Oh March 2018 Will Be Great For Your Yu-Gi-Oh Kaiba Cards

Yu-Gi-Oh March 2018 will be great for your collection of Yu-Gi-Oh...

Arena Football Automotives MMA, Kick Boxing & Boxing Professional Wrestling
Bellator 192 Full Results including the Welterweight Championship and Heavyweight Grand Prix

January 20, 2018 – Tonight, airing for the first time on...

Bellator 192 Prelims Live on FanboyNation

Bellator: Lima vs. MacDonald – Live Tonight 9/8c, on Paramount Network...

LFA 30 Full Results

Legacy Fighting Alliance (LFA), one of the most recognizable names in...

Adult Continuity Comics on the Can Cultural Junk Drawer Future Comic Rock Stars Is That Racist? Revisiting the Reviled THAT'S NOT ROTTEN! The B-Reel The Cantina Scene This Week in Crowdfunding What the HELL Did I just...?
Adult Continuity #11 Star Wars Underworld: A XXX parody


New Year's Resolutions for Fandom
New Year’s Resolutions for Fandom

It’s the start of another year and while everyone out there...

Samo Says: Star Wars – The Last of My Patience

When I was a child, I loved Star Wars. I had...

Event News Event Reviews
dough bar
The Dough Bar and the Protein Donut

Created by Marquez and Ondrea Fernandez, The Dough Bar Doughnuts are...

Improve Sleep and Performance with TrueDark

TrueDark by Biohacked aims to improve your sleep, performance, and health by...

Pyramid Escape Room Review
Escape Room LA’s The Pyramid Escape Room Review

Overview of The Pyramid Escape Room The Pyramid Escape Room, Escape Room...

Gaming Uncensored Toon-In-Talk
Gaming Uncensored: Year in Review 2016

A look back at the year in gaming.

Gaming Uncensored Roundtable: December 2016

December’s roundtable discusses story in games with Chad, Josh, and Spencer....

Gaming Uncensored: Podcast #349

Jamie reflects on some of his time with the HTC Vive....

Music Interviews Music News Music Reviews
Rising Country Music Artist Kaylin Roberson Talks About her work with St. Jude

Kaylin Roberson is a singer, songwriter and pianist from Raleigh, North...

MTV Unveils Performers for ‘TRL Live’ on October 3rd at 3 p.m. E.T.

NEW YORK, NY (September 26, 2017) – MTV today announced that...

Long Beach Punk Band ‘Spider’ Rocks ‘It’s Not Dead’ Festival

Spider is a heavy hitting punk band out of Long Beach,...