Friday, August 8, 2008

"Can We Turn Our Beds Into Bunkbeds?" STEP BROTHERS - Reviewed! Plus: Olympics, Politics, and MORE

- So, who else is in the Olympic spirit? It's funny, I feel like I've seen a ton of coverage concerning China and all of its various socio-economic and environmental issues, and yet, I know almost nothing about what I should be looking for in the upcoming games. Who are the big athletes? What are the big events? I'm not sure why I don't know any of these things ... I was barely even sure who was on the USA Basketball team until curiosity got the better of me and I finally looked it up on (wow, they finally recruited Michael Redd, about eight years too late ... Okay, seriously though the team is pretty stacked -- it would be shocking if they don't win the Gold). But even with USA basketball, it's hard to root for a team led by that paragon of virtue, Kobe Bryant. What a stand-up guy to have as the leader of Team USA. It's a far cry from the '92 Dream Team, when as a kid it was as if the greatest basketball heroes of all-time had magically come together to form the most kickass team of b-ballers ever assembled.

I don't know, here at work the Olympics are obviously a huge focus, and yet I've yet to talk to anyone of my generation who is actually excited for the games. Is it just because we no longer come together around these big, shared events? Is it because we are so used to watching what we want, when we want, that an event that seems to demand such appointment-style viewing loses its appeal? Maybe it's that the games have just lost their luster -- in a world that's so small now, everyone interconnected via technology and communications - is it really that special or novel in 2008 to see athletes assemble to compete while representing their country? All one has to do is watch an NBA or MLB game to see teams made up of multicultural and multinational players. Without that aura of specialness, the Olympics is really just a lot of sports that few of us pay attention to in Non-Olympic times. Swimming, diving, track ... soccer? How many of us would watch these outside of the Olympics? And I guess that's why all this effort is being put into making sure that the games are available in all media - online, on-demand, etc. So, it will be extremely interesting to see if these efforts to bring the Games to the digital age pay off. I'm really curious to see what the TV ratings will be for the games, and I'm curious to see if, personally, I'll begin to get caught up in the Olympic excitement, or just tune out. I have to admit though ... I'm curious to see how the events look in glorious HD.

- On a political note, I know I'm not alone in thinking that John McCain's recent wave of ads on Obama are just ridiculous, not clever or funny, and disturbing in the way in which they try to associate Obama with so much negative and pretty random imagery.

I mean, come on - is anyone buying the idea that Obama is a hollow celebrity in the same vein as Paris Hilton or Britney Spears? That ad comes off as a total act of desperation by McCain. I mean, what is he trying to say - that Obama should be chastized for being popular? I mean, since when did Americans ever dislike someone for being larger-than-life?

And then, the other recent ad that intercuts footage of Obama with Charlton Heston as Moses from the Ten Commandments ... This ad is just plain weird on a number of levels. First, is comparing someone to Moses supposed to be a huge attack on someone? Last I checked Moses was a great biblical hero. Hmmm. But okay, the reality is that the ad tries to paint Obama as a self-appointed savior who is actually much more sinister than he appears. Personally, I find that message pretty disturbing. I mean, it's a completely hollow accusation / implication. Since the guy is popular and charismatic, by definition he must also have a messiah complex and be hiding some dark and secret agenda? I hope anyone with half a brain will join me in calling BS on these ridiculous John McCain ads.

Personally, I can't wait to see the first debate between Obama and McCain. I can only imagine that McCain is going to get eviscerated, because the fact is he's simply on the wrong side of too many issues. Well, except for the issues that he's changed his mind on, depending on whether he's pandering to the Conservative base or trying to reestablish his rep as a straight-talking maverick. I do agree with one shared observation though - the election will certainly provide some of this Fall's most compelling new TV.

- At the movies this weekend: I am definitely excited for PINEAPPLE EXPRESS. Mostly, it's just cool to see Seth Rogan and James Franco team up again. If only Jason Segal could join them, it'd be a full-on Freaks and Geeks reunion. As I've talked about every so often here on the blog, over the last few (well, several?) months I've been slowly but surely re-watching every Freaks and Geeks episode, and with each episode I am continually blown way by just how good the show was. I believe I only have one or two eps left before I'm done with the series, but man, it really is one of those shows that's eternally rewatchable. In any case ... if Pinapple Express can capture even a fraction of that old Freeks n' Geeks magic, it should be pretty great.

- Anyways, I do have a movie review for ya' - so if you are curious to know what I thought about STEP BROTHERS, read on ...


- There was a time when I definitely conisdered myself a Will Ferrell hater of sorts. I think the problem wasn't that I had any particular dislike for Will Ferell, it was that the guy seemed to be all over the map when it came to comedy. And the problem was that the stuff that people seemed to respond the most to ... to me, that was often his weakest material. To me, I love when Will Ferrell gets weird, random, and out-there. I don't like him as a crazy overgrown fratboy or as an effeminate cheerleader. To me, Will Ferrell is at his best when he digs in deep, pushes his comedy to the extremes, and doesn't pander to anyone.

So to me, Will Ferell has never been better than in his collaborations with writer Adam McKay. In Anchorman, Talladega Nights, and now Step Brothers, McKay has written scripts that have that special kind of insane stupidity that comes from a real sort of comedic genius. The characters Ferrell plays in McKays scripts are uniformly morons, but their idiocy is always written with a touch of brilliance.

So, I'm happy to report that STEP BROTHERS is an inspired bit of so-dumb-its-genius filmmaking in the grand tradition of comedy classics like Dumb & Dumber.

The movie is just freaking funny, for one thing. It's a hard R movie, and it goes all-out in terms of pushing the envelope. I don't like profanity used just for the sake of profanity, but there's a hilarity here because the whole point is that the step brothers, played with total commitment by Ferrell and John C. Reilly, are 40-year-old losers who never matured past the age of 14. It's a premise that could have been pretty lame if handled poorly, but the movie never holds back - it creates these crazy and absurd characters and runs with them. Somehow, it works.

Again, a lot of that is due to Ferrell and Reilly. The brilliant and underrated WALK HARD cemented John C. Reilly to me as a hilarious comedic actor, and he's similarly great in this one. Him and Ferrell are plain and simply a great comedic duo - you can tell that they are in every way on the same page, and you get the sense that each is trying to top the other throughout the movie. It gives the comedy a real energy.

To mention the premise for a minute - the basic setup is that Ferrell and Reilly are two 40 year old guys who somehow never matured past adolescence. Ferrell still lives with his overprotective mom, played by Mary Steenburgen, and Reilly still lives with his stern dad, played by Richard Jenkins, who has kind of taken the "oh well, I tried and failed" attitude towards his good-for-nothing son. When Jenkins' and Steenburgen's characters have a whirlwind romance and marry, they move in together and each brings along their still-at-home 40 year old sons. Of course, the two step brothers start out as instant rivals, but since they are basically two sides of the same coin, they eventually bond and become fast and inseparable friends. But of course, just as they are happy and content to share a life of daytime TV, bunk beds, and karate fights, their parents finally demand that the two grow up and get out into the real world.

It's worth noting that Richard Jenkins is awesome here. Similar to DeNiro's unexpectedly great performance back in Meet the Parents, the gruff-looking Jenkins is fearless here and just has a ton of great moments of inspired lunacy.

There's also a really excellent suporting cast in general - a lot of the actors weren't very familiar to me prior to this film, but they're actors who will now definitely be on my comedy radar. Chief among them is Adam Scott, who plays Ferrell's accomplished and uber-slick yet ultra obnoxious older brother. He's one of those actors who looks familar, and maybe it's because here he seems to be channelling Tom Cruise, but he really is hilariously hateable. There's a great scene that introduces him and his seemingly perfect family, as they drive together while Scott forces them to sing an acapella version of "Sweet Child of Mine." Kathryn Hahn is also really funny as his sex-starved wife. There's a lot of other funny people who pop as well, from Rob Riggle as an overeager businessman to a great Seth Rogan cameo.

Mostly, the movie is just bursting with insanity, and it's pretty consistently funny throughout. There are a few times when it tries to get a little life-lesson-y where it begins to fall flat. And there are times when Ferrell and Reilly's gags go on a little long and get a little repetitive. But while Step Brothers doesn't break new comedic ground, it's certainly one of the out and out funniest movies I've seen this year. Definitely put this in the "good Will Ferell" category. Check it out if you want to laugh or if you just want to replenish your repertoire of crazy-sounding taunts. Avoid only if you're hyper-sensitive to rampant vulgarity and excessive shots of the male anatomy.


- And I'm out for the weekend. Hope to have several bigtime blogs next week, so stay tuned.


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  2. Danny,

    Count me as a person of "our generation" who is excited about the Olympics. I had a big party Friday night for Opening Ceremonies, and I'm having people over the next 2 nights to watch swimming (Go Michael Phelps!) and gymnastics (Go USA!)

    There are a few more of us out there, I assure you...just wait until Track and Field starts on Friday and they'll come out of the woodworks.

    ~Andrew S.