With a decade of hindsight, it's now evident that 2008 was an excellent year for an assortment of different genres. However, in the realm of comedies, there's one specific movie that has managed to stand the test of time: Adam McKay's Step Brothers. The hard-R, crude comedy has become one of the most re-watchable flicks of the last decade, and McKay recently joined CinemaBlend for an interview to dive into anything and everything that makes the story of Dale Doback (John C. Reilly) and Brennan Huff (Will Ferrell) so beloved.
From the spark of the idea for this bizarre premise to the iconography of some of its best scenes to the future of comedy and the Step Brothers brand itself, we're going to run through anything and everything that you want to know. On that note, let's kick things off by talking about Adam McKay's idea for where Step Brothers came from in the first place.
Apparently, Adam McKay, Will Ferrell, and John C. Reilly went through a ton of movie ideas before deciding to make Step Brothers. Step Brothers may seem like a no-brainer for guys like Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly, but it wasn't the only idea that Adam McKay and his actors toyed around with. During his chat with CinemaBlend, McKay explained that several premises (albeit most of which weren't entirely formed) were thrown out, including the possibility of making Ferrell and Reilly portray guys who saw a UFO and couldn't convince anyone of it, as well as a story involving two LAPD cops. Per McKay:
There was an idea that John C. Reilly had that was kind of cool. Will and I had kicked around the idea of two guys who actually encountered a UFO, but then no one believes them, and their lives kind of fell apart. It was a little more dramatic. There was one idea we had. Yeah, there were a lot. A lot of them are just pieces of ideas really. Like 'I picture you guys, you know, on a horse carriage. I picture if there's something with you guys doing this.' We had a couple ideas about cops. I think we had the idea that one of them is like a veteran police officer, LA, California, state police. That kind of vibe was kind of fun. Ferrell used to do a character on SNL that was kind of a cop character. I think we kicked that around.
As noted by McKay in that comment, some of these ideas were eventually used in later projects. In fact, the Step Brothers idea had particular significance to them after completing Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.
This is why Adam McKay made Step Brothers right after Talladega Nights. Adam McKay and Will Ferrell have collaborated several times over the years, and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby brought John C. Reilly into the equation and turned the creative duo into a trio. With the team assembled for a new project, Adam McKay went into Step Brothers with a desire to make something a little weirder that would also rely more heavily on a small scale and improv. As McKay put it:
We realized it was kind of absurd. We realized it was a little crazy, but we kind of liked that coming off Talladega Nights, which Talladega Nights was a little bit more like a 'movie' movie. Even though there's certainly crazy stuff in it, like a cougar in the car and stuff, but for the most part, it felt like a movie movie, and we liked the idea of doing something that all took place basically in one house. No race cars, no explosions, characters, tons of improv, have fun with people you love, and you know, shoot it kind of in one place. So the combination of that idea, and a desire to do something that was more a place, in one house.
And that's ultimately how the film turned out. Step Brothers mainly plays out within the confines of one location, but it also took Adam McKay and Will Ferrell to new territory for their partnership by moving from PG-13 to an R-rating.
There's a reason why Step Brothers intentionally aimed for an R rating. Step Brothers ultimately became a hit and earned a commendable 54% on Rotten Tomatoes, which is pretty good for a broad comedy like this. However, McKay and Will Ferrell weren't sure how the film would perform in the earliest stages of its development, so they eventually opted to go all out and aim for an R-rating instead of the PG-13 label that they had for Anchorman and Talladega Nights. McKay told us:
We realized how absurd it was getting. I actually looked at Will and I said, 'You know, this could be a really crazy movie. I can't imagine critics are gonna like it.' And I was like, 'And I'm not sure it's as commercially sound as Talladega Nights and Anchorman.' I go, 'Are you okay with that? If we make a movie that doesn't get the best reviews, for me to do that, Will?' And he said, 'Oh, I'm totally fine with that.' And I said, 'Good, because so am I.' And so we actually went into this movie with no pressure.
In the end, because Step Brothers was so unrestricted in its approach to comedy, Adam McKay ultimately walked away feeling incredibly satisfied on a creative level. In fact, the director continued and explained that he feels like it's the collaboration with Will Ferrell that's the most faithful to his own sense of humor. McKay explained:
In fact, of all the movies we've done together, Will and I, would say that Step Brothers is kind of the purest to what we really love about comedy. Not to say the other ones don't make us laugh really hard, but I think this was the one where we were like the most unfettered where it was just raw sort of absurdity and things that made us laugh and anything we liked we did.
However, despite the fact that Step Brothers has such a pure feeling to it, it also has some previously unknown connections to other films directed by Adam McKay -- which is the next topic discussed in our interview with the director.
Wait, Step Brothers, Talladega Nights, and The Other Guys take place in the same universe? We live in an age defined by cinematic universes like the Marvel Cinematic Universe or the DCEU, but it turns out that many of Adam McKay's films actually exist in a shared world as well. When we asked him about the presence of Hugalo's pizza in Talladega Nights and Step Brothers, the filmmaker explained that several of his films are meant to exist in the same universe. McKay said:
They absolutely exist in the same world. That was definitely intentional. We also have Laughing Clown malt liquor show up in Talladega Nights and show up in The Other Guys. I think there's even a can of Laughing Clown liquor on Dale Doback's shelf in his room.
This apparently started out just as a way to prevent having to continually come up with fake labels to use movie after movie. However, they eventually realized that they were fond of the concept of a shared universe and embraced it in a way not dissimilar to that of Quentin Tarantino's films. Addressing the similarity, McKay explained:
And then we kind of liked the idea that they all existed in the same world. You know, like Tarantino does the thing with the cigarettes, what does he call him? He has them in Pulp Fiction, they're called 'Red Cherry' or something, and then they show up in another one of his movies. So it's a little bit inspired by Tarantino doing that.
This quality gives many of Adam McKay's comedies a timeless and classic quality, but that leads to the bigger question of why we haven't seen as many great comedies like Step Brothers in recent years.
Adam McKay has a theory on why so few good comedies are getting made. The last few years have seen a notable downturn in the number of broad comedies that have become hits with audiences, and that's something that has not gone unnoticed by Adam McKay. Addressing the dearth of reliable comedies in the modern era, the man behind Step Brothers offered up a rationale by explaining that there's currently no one specific comedic voice that defines the world in 2018, saying:
I think there's this strange moment where everyone's recalibrating. And I think you're seeing this change. It's not just America. Across the world, you're seeing this kind of rise of this whole kind of nationalism, that we really just didn't think it would come back. And so it's a really fascinating moment right now with comedy. I mean am I crazy? I don't think there's a clear comedic voice right now out there that's taking charge the way Chris Rock did in the early 2000s, or the way that [Will] Ferrell did in the late 1990s, or you know Louis CK like five years ago kind of was that voice. Tina Fey was that voice. And Judd [Apatow] had that run, but I can't... am I missing someone? Is there someone right now who is like the voice of comedy? I can't really think who would be. Tiffany Haddish, maybe.
The success of Girls Trip has potentially positioned Tiffany Haddish as a leader in the current comedy conversation, but Adam McKay seems to think that there's no clear answer yet. Having said that, he doesn't think there's a lack of talent in the comedy field, and he has even expressed an interest in returning to the world of broad comedies to see what he can bring to the conversation. As he put it:
Now it doesn't seem like it's for lack of talent. It seems like it's for lack of point of view. It seems like we're not all on the same page as far as what the hell's going on. And I think a part of the condition of comedy is there has to be some kind of consensus, whether we know that consensus or not, about the way things are, and that consensus doesn't exist right now. So I don't know, it'll be really curious to see which way it breaks. I mean, trying to think of any stand-up specials I've seen, there's definitely really funny people out there, but yeah, it's a fascinating time. Ferrell and I have kicked around the idea of going back and doing a comedy, and I gotta say, it would be really challenging to go into this climate and do a comedy. There's part of me that kind of can't resist, that really feels like doing it and seeing if we could pull it off, and what kind of point of view we would pull out of it. But it's fascinating times. There's no question.
Of course, if Adam McKay does return to the world of broad comedies, he will have a lot to live up to when we consider Step Brothers' overwhelming iconography. Shifting gears to that element of the film's legacy, we continued in our interview and talked about the enduring appeal of the fucking Catalina Wine Mixer.
Adam McKay still can't believe the Catalina Wine Mixer became a real thing. Out of all the jokes in Step Brothers, one of the most instantly memorable is the sheer amount of passion that every character has for the Catalina Wine Mixer. The fictional event has seeped into our culture over the course of the last decade, and it has even become a go-to theme for parties in "bro culture." When we discussed this element of the film with Adam McKay, he made sure to note that it's equally flattering and bizarre, saying:
It's the craziest thing. I had John C. Reilly send me a story a couple years ago that they're actually doing a Catalina Wine Mixer on Catalina every year. And then I heard stories of Bro Culture doing the parties. I mean, that has to be one of the strangest things with the movies Will and I have done... certainly in the case of Anchorman, Talladega Nights and, Step Brothers. We're kind of making fun of certain cultures. Like a bro culture or you know, a white sexist 1970s guys. And then, when you see the people who you're kind of making fun of embrace it, it's both hilarious, and at the same time, dispiriting.
It will be interesting to see if Adam McKay, Will Ferrell, and John C. Reilly can create something equally iconic in Step Brothers 2. That said, don't hold your breath on seeing the long-awaited sequel anytime soon, because McKay made sure to note that the highly-anticipated sequel has a very long shelf life.
Why Step Brothers 2 can wait. If you're one of the many fans who continue to hold out hope for Step Brothers 2, then we have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that Adam McKay could easily see Step Brothers 2 happening at some point, and there are even potential story ideas already in place. However, he also doesn't seem to be in any rush because the core concept behind Dale Doback and Brennan Huff only gets funnier as John C. Reilly and Will Ferrell get older. McKay addressed the wait for the sequel and said:
It is very possible in five years, because I don't think the Step Brothers idea gets worse the older these guys get. We could all look at each other and go, 'all right, let's go do it.' A while ago I said, 'No way we're doing it.' But I thought about it. I was like, 'Why am I saying that? We definitely could end up doing that.' So who knows?
Make sure to stay tuned for more awesome content related to the anniversary of Step Brothers and let us know if you want to see the sequel in the comments, below! As for 2018's movies, you can hop over to our movie premiere guide to see what's on the calendar for this year!