Comedy Movie

Dad & Step-Dad

Inadequacy peeks from behind the uncomfortable smiles and passive aggressive remarks that two adult men exchange in the presence of the 13-year-old boy under their care. Both of these visibly distressed would-be role models is desperate for some validation. The father, Jim (Colin Burgess), has driven his adolescent son Branson (played by boyish-looking adult actor Brian Fiddyment) to a home nestled inside a forest where Dave (Anthony Oberbeck), the kid’s overly involved stepdad, is waiting for them. Suzie (Clare O’Kane), the woman that connects the male trio, is set to arrive later in the weekend.

That’s the simple but effective setup of the consistently laugh-out-loud and unexpectedly poignant microbudget deadpan comedy “Dad & Step-Dad,” from filmmaker Tynan DeLong. The feature expands on a series of short films starring these characters, played by the same actors, that DeLong created over the last few years. The concept is reminiscent of the childish feuding between the protagonists in Adam McKay’s “Step Brothers” but filtered through the down-to-earth, far less in-your-face sensitivities of mumblecore filmmaking.

Amid the tranquility of nature—expressed in idyllic cutaway shots of the surrounding flora and fauna—the two guys fight over every petty opportunity to assert their superiority in the eyes of Branson, who doesn’t much care about their juvenile, but mostly restrained competitiveness. Neither David nor Jim embody the hypermasculine bro-type to get physically violent, but rather a defeated pair of dudes approaching middle age and on the verge of snapping. Under a veneer of politeness, they argue about the grill’s temperature or whose approach to playing guitar is best suited to accompany Branson’s freestyle rapping.  

The humor derives from the self-seriousness of the line delivery, always without a hint of irony, and the uneasy silence that follows some of the most outrageous sentences uttered. A conversation on masturbation, a subject where Dave and Jim’s beliefs differ radically, turns into an interrogation of both Branson’s unusual desires and the most appropriate technique for self-pleasure. As preposterously awkward as the presentation of these parental dilemmas is, the underlying commonality is that they each exemplify how the men are projecting their own sense of failure onto the boy. It’s about them and not Branson.

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