America loves dysfunctional families, but haven't we seen enough middle-aged losers who haven't grown up?
We know Will Ferrell can carry a hilarious movie ("Anchorman"), as can John C. Reilly (the underrated "Walk Hard"). And Ferrell and Reilly do have considerable comic chemistry together, as we saw in "Talladega Nights."
So that raises our hopes for this second joint effort.
Adding to high expectations: an eclectic supporting cast, with Richard Jenkins ("The Visitor") as Reilly's father (and Ferrell's stepfather) and Mary Steenburgen as Ferrell's mom (and Reilly's stepmother). Adam Scott has some sharply humorous moments as Ferrell's brother, though his character gets old fast.
The concept is inherently funny: Each is a self-absorbed brat living at home, sponging off his parent and generally acting like an overgrown 13-year-old. When their single parents fall in love and marry, they are forced to share a room. They squabble, bond, job-hunt and cause problems with their parents.
But the plot grows thin and the laughs grow fewer once the premise is established. One problem: the stepbrothers' similarity. They come off as almost the same person, so generating conflict becomes nearly impossible.
Certifiably funny bits are interspersed with juvenile jokes centering on bathroom habits, flatulence and vomiting. It seems Ferrell and Reilly are having lots of fun, but that's not always communicated to the audience. Some gags go on too long or are simply too forced. A scene at the dinner table featuring all the family has some funny moments, but it doesn't come close to the hilarity of the extended dinner in "Talladega" (with the infamous discussion of baby Jesus and grace).
Like a few other comedies in recent memory, this feels it should have been a "Saturday Night Live" skit rather than a full-length film.