To get down to a couple of specifics, the “Super Trouper” number on the eve of the wedding is a definite high point, and despite the shortage of competition for high points, the closing credits are well worth hanging on for, providing two higher points in the form of encores — twin peaks, if you please — with Streep and her bosom buddies (the blissfully confident Christine Baranski and the indomitably plucky Julie Walters) stepping off the Greek island and onto a secluded concert stage, in disco-era Vegas costumes. I can’t predict how well this will play to a matinee crowd of eight or nine customers in the third week of release, but I had a hearty laugh when Streep, generating her own electricity between encores, calls out to an imaginary audience, “Do you want another one?” Whether you answer or not, you get another one.
Step Brothers [sic] is a mainstream comedy, at the broadest point in the stream, about a pair of developmentally arrested forty-year-olds (mental age in the seven-to-fourteen range), still living at home with their respective single mom and single dad, then living together after the parents meet and marry, living first at loggerheads and later in boisterous accord. One of the big babies is predictably, perhaps inevitably, Will Ferrell, under a plush-pile rug. The other one, thinner on top, is John C. Reilly, lowering himself from The Promotion to earn a presumably fat paycheck, a sobering sight. (Richard Jenkins as his father stands in a similar relation to The Visitor.) Everything is pushed to extremes with the intent of making it extra, extra funny, and with the result of making it not at all funny. It is to co-producer Judd Apatow rather than director Adam McKay that we are prone to ascribe the prosthetic testicles; and it’s between the scriptwriting team of Ferrell and McKay that we are obliged to split credit for lines like “I want to roll you into a little ball and shove you up my vagina” and “I feel like a lightning bolt hit the tip of my penis.” In holding back from such extremes, The Promotion of course stigmatized itself as an “art film,” to be segregated on the specialty circuit.