Monday, December 15, 2008

Comedies, Small and Big: LOWER LEARNING and STEP BROTHERS

Watching these two comedies on successive days put TrustMovies in mind of money, power and our PR/celebrity culture. Neither film is all that good, but, in fact, LOWER LEARNING offers more originality and the comedic laughter that sometimes accompanies this than does STEP BROTHERS -- for all its "star power" and budget. Both films have interesting concepts that deal

with children thinking and behaving like adults (the former) and adults behaving and thinking like kids (the latter).

In Lower Learning, Jason Biggs (below right), Eva Longoria-Parker (below center) and Rob Corddry (the standout, below left) head a cast that takes on elementary education in our country and the "power of the principal" -- particularly one very greedy example of this breed. What makes the movie stand out a bit (and gives it some welcome laughs) are the children shown, some of whose dialog should have fundamentalists running for the hills. The plot is rather obvious and not very believable, but the humor and situations more than make up for this. The teachers/staff on view range from feeble to sad, but most of them are quite funny (the supporting cast includes Will Sasso and Monica Potter) and their childish behavior makes that of the kids even odder and more pointed, for when adults abdicate their responsibility, kids will be quick to assume it.

Step Brothers, on the other hand, offers Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly as adults who are still children for all practical (and impractical) purposes. Their antics are sometimes quite funny and just as often a little tiring. There's too much repetition here, and, as with so many current comedies, the running time is maybe 15 minutes too long (so's that of Lower Learning). But what most rankles is the idiot stretch for yet another feel-good ending, which is totally unjustified by any standard (except the ever-lowering IQ of American audiences, primed, as always, on blockbuster/celebrity schlock). Mary Steenburgen (below right), Richard Jenkins (below center) and Adam Scott (below left) offer good support.

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