The Movie Club

Can I Get Some Love for Step Brothers?
Critic vs. critic.
Jan. 7 2009 1:39 PM

The Movie Club

VIEW ALL ENTRIES

Dear everyone,

So many excellent points have been raised that it's hard to touch on them all. To answer Dana's question about the overrating of Clint Eastwood: It's arguable that some of his more skeptical (re)viewers feel a certain deference to him, a willingness to give him the benefit of the doubt. I'll cop to feeling that filial piety myself, so I'll ration my Gran Torino commentary to these two cents: What's most exciting about the film is the resilient artistic endurance of an icon who could have rested on his laurels long ago but who keeps daring himself to make it new, for better or worse.

Anna Faris in The House Bunny.
Anna Faris in The House Bunny

Lisa has reminded me that I should have included Tropic Thunder on my list of waterworks moments—the opening mock trailers had me not only crying with laughter but also clutching arms with the equally hysterical total stranger sitting beside me. The comedy with the highest laughs-per-minute ratio this year, however, was also the sweetest: The House Bunny. I can't improve on Stephanie's sparkling review except to add that Anna Faris' ebullient spin on indefatigable generosity and good cheer is preferable to Mike Leigh's: more pragmatic and more fun. Dana, I share your ambivalence about Happy-Go-Lucky, partly because I had a hard time accepting the film on its own terms (a critic's Achilles' heel, I admit). Sally Hawkins is a fearless, vivid actress, yet I wanted her character not only to wield her battering-ram optimism for good but to come upon some pebble of self-awareness on her merry way—some clue that her relentlessly in-your-face positivity might make others, egad, unhappy.

Back to the year's comedies: I wasn't a fan of Forgetting Sarah Marshall. (Jason Segel's naked self-abnegation would have been more affecting if the rest of the movie hadn't surrounded him with nubile women eager to dress him up in their love and/or sex.) And somehow I doubt I have much company in advocating for the mostly maligned Step Brothers. Comedy is subjective, of course, but there's some feral pocket of my frontal lobes that wonders how it's possible to resist a movie in which the great Richard Jenkins (who gave one of the year's most tender performances in The Visitor) delivers a rousing speech about how he always wanted to be a dinosaur when he grew up. Or a comedy with a scrotum-on-the-drum-set fracas (marking the second time, after Boogie Nights, that John C. Reilly has appeared in a film featuring state-of-the-art prosthetic genitalia). Or that deploys "Ice Ice Baby" as a villain's ominous theme song. Or that contains a triumphant scene wherein grown men beat up children on a playground. Perhaps someone can talk me out of all this. Yet uneven as it is, Step Brothers strikes me not as the cynical nadir of the Judd Apatow-associated trend of manboy movies but as an imploded critique of said trend, and it thrums with anarchic, deranged energy. The same kind of energy, strange as it may sound, that Dana loved about The Last Mistress: I also adored that insane Eros-and-Thanatos desert sex tableau. And how about that gob-smacking moment when the incomparable Ms. Argento—who was just as memorable this year as the drug-running slut machine in Boarding Gate—sucks greedily at her lover's chest wound?

Speaking of horny vampires, we haven't yet talked about Let the Right One In, the Swedish anti-Twilight: an expressionist splatter canvas depicting the emotional and hormonal bombast of early adolescence with dark wit and heartfelt empathy. And we haven't delved into another awards-season favorite, Rachel Getting Married. I loved the catlike prowl of Declan Quinn's camerawork, Rosemarie DeWitt's slow-burn infuriation, and Anne Hathaway's bottomless eyes and her watch-through-your-fingers toast to the squirming couple. But is the movie's ability to make the viewer feel trapped at a never-ending wedding a feat of brilliant verisimilitude or a strike against it?

L'chaim,
Jessica

Jeannette Catsoulis writes about film for the New York Times, Reverse Shot, and Las Vegas CityLife. Lisa Schwarzbaum is a movie critic at Entertainment Weekly. Dana Stevens is Slate's movie critic. Jessica Winter is the film critic and senior editor at O, the Oprah MagazineStephanie Zacharek is a senior writer and film critic for Salon.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Photos of the Crowds That Took Over NYC for the People’s Climate March

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

I Wrote a Novel Envisioning a Nigerian Space Program. Then I Learned Nigeria Actually Has One.

A Futurama Writer on How the Vietnam War Shaped the Series

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 22 2014 11:13 AM Your Own Personal Rand Paul How the libertarian hero makes his foreign policy contradictions disappear.
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 22 2014 9:39 AM Adrian Peterson Has a Terrible Contract, and Cutting Him Would Save the Vikings a Lot of Money
  Life
Atlas Obscura
Sept. 22 2014 11:15 AM Avenue of the Baobabs: Madagascar's Magical Upside-Down Trees
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Science
Sept. 22 2014 8:08 AM Slate Voice: “Why Is So Much Honey Clover Honey?” Mike Vuolo shares the story of your honey.
  Arts
Television
Sept. 21 2014 9:00 PM Attractive People Being Funny While Doing Amusing and Sometimes Romantic Things Don’t dismiss it. Friends was a truly great show.
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 7:47 AM Predicting the Future for the U.S. Government The strange but satisfying work of creating the National Intelligence Council’s Global Trends report.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 22 2014 5:30 AM MAVEN Arrives at Mars
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.