The Step Brothers script is comedy gold. One could say that in many ways, it’s more funny than the film. We’re going to break down the Step Brothers script by looking at its iconic quotes, characters, and ending. You may be surprised just how different the Step Brothers script is from the final cut of the film. Buckle in and read along as we teardown the Step Brothers screenplay! Download your own PDF copy below!

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Step Brothers Script Teardown - Will Ferrell Headshot
Step Brothers Script Teardown - Adam McKay

WHO WROTE Step brothers SCRIPT?

Written by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay

Based on a story by Ferrell, McKay, and John C. Reilly.

Will Ferrell is a prolific writer, actor, and producer, best known for starring in films like Anchorman and Talladega Nights, as well as for appearing in seven seasons of Saturday Night Live.

Adam McKay is a writer, director, and producer, who previously served as the head writer for Saturday Night Live. McKay won the Academy Award for Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay for The Big Short, alongside Charles Randolph.

John C. Reilly is a writer, actor, and musician who’s been nominated for an Oscar (Chicago), a Grammy (Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story), a Tony (True West), and a Golden Globe (Stan and Ollie). 

STORY BREAKDOWN

STRUCTURE OF THE STEP BROTHERS SCREENPLAY

Here is the story structure for the Step Brothers screenplay:

Exposition

Two older adults, Robert (62), a widower, and Nancy (60), a divorcée, hook up and get married. 

Inciting Incident

Nancy and her son Brennan (39) move in with Robert and his son Dale (40). 

Plot Point One

Brennan and Dale declare their animosity towards the situation. The reluctant step brothers fight constantly and cause headaches for Robert and Nancy.

Rising Action

Robert tells the boys that they have eight weeks to move out. Brennan’s antagonistic brother Derek visits and wins Robert’s favor. Dale stands up to Derek — which causes him and Brennan to grow closer.

Plot Point Two

Brennan and Dale apply for jobs but are rejected each step of the way. Instead, the duo decide to pursue their true passion: becoming a musical enterprise.

Midpoint

Brennan starts a relationship with his therapist, Denise, while Dale starts a relationship with Derek’s wife, Alice. But as things start to look like they might be getting better, Robert tells the boys that he and Nancy are getting a divorce. 

Build Up

Brennan and Dale hatch a plan to get their parents back together through a series of well-intentioned, but ultimately ill-advised events.

Plot Point Two

Brennan and Dale learn that their parents were never going to get divorced, they just wanted to push them to get real jobs. Realizing that it’s not possible for them to do so, Robert and Nancy ask them to sign legal agreements to become dependents. Brennan accepts, Dale does not; and instead takes a job at Derek’s company.

Climax

Dale is tasked with organizing the Catalina wine mixer, but he can’t find a good musical act. At the last minute, Brennan shows up and wows the audience with his miraculous voice.

Finale

Brennan and Dale reignite their friendship and continue their relationships with Denise and Alice respectively.

Finale

Sometime later, it’s revealed that Dale’s become a police officer, Brennan is pursuing the prospect of being a backup singer on a cruise line, and Robert and Nancy are living happily together.

Step brothers Script Takeaway #1

Inside the best Step Brothers quotes

Step Brothers is one of the most quotable movies of all-time. Each act of the story contains more than a dozen quotes that you may recognize, but did you know that a lot of the best Step Brothers quotes weren’t in the script? 

We imported the Step Brothers screenplay into StudioBinder’s screenwriting software to take a closer look at the Step Brothers dialogue. In this next example, we’ll look at the differences between the script and the screen in one of the film's most iconic scenes.

Best Step Brothers Quotes  •  Step Brothers Drum Set Scene Script

The Step Brothers drum set lines scene is an all-time classic — but did you notice anything different about the dialogue in the script as opposed to what you may remember from the film? Okay, keep that script open and read along as you watch the scene from the movie below. You won’t want to miss the Step Brothers drum set quote from the movie.

Best Step Brothers Quotes  •  Step Brothers Drum Set Lines

The exchange at the beginning of the scene is different. In the film, it looks something like this:

DALE

Why are you so sweaty?

BRENNAN

I was watching Cops.

DALE

Not supposed to have your feet on the couch.

Whereas in the script, it’s written as:

DALE

Were you masturbating to The View?

BRENNAN

Yeah. Just to the young one.

DALE

Oh. I’m gonna go hit the skins.

Ultimately, the set-up is the same, but without the change, we never would’ve gotten one of the best Step Brothers quotes, “I was watching Cops.” The scene then moves onto the iconic Step Brothers drum set quote: did you touch my drum set script marked on page 16. Here are some other great quotes:

  • “We’re men, Dad. We fart. We talk about pussy. We go on river boat gambling trips. We make our own beef jerky. And now it’s all wrecked!”
  • “I don’t believe in belts, but I once killed a doberman pinscher with my bare hands.”
  • “This house is a fuckin’ prison.”
  • “It would give us more space in our room, to do activities.”
  • “You dig around in people’s ears! We make beautiful music.”
  • “You reek of cheesecake and scotch.”
  • “It’s the fuckin’ Catalina wine mixer.”

Step Brothers Script Takeaway #2

Step Brothers characters — built to fail

The Step Brothers script does an excellent job of character building. In comedy writing, there isn’t much time to get the audience on board. You have to make the viewer care about the characters and plot from the get-go, or else you risk everything falling apart.

Brennan and Dale may be doofuses, but they mean well. Derek on the other hand is completely despicable. Think about how the conflict is structured: first, it’s Brennan vs. Dale. This conflict isn’t built to last though — Brennan and Dale are just too alike for us to root for one character over the other.

Then Derek is introduced — Brennan and Dale unite, and we root for them to defeat him. These Step Brothers characters are built for failure, but they persevere despite their shortcomings. 

Let’s take a look at how the “Derek vs. Brennan and Dale” conflict materializes. Pay attention to Derek’s first line (it should be clear that we’re supposed to be rooting against him).

Step Brothers Lines in the Script  •  Read the Treehouse Scene

Comedy writing is reliant on things moving at a brisk pace. Sometimes, you just have to make the antagonist a complete jerk. By doing so, you’ll keep the story moving forward.

Let’s take a look at how the scene came together in the final cut. Pay attention to the wardrobing.

Step Brothers Characters in the Tree House Scene

Brennan and Dale are wearing the same, light-toned outfit — while Derek is wearing a dark leather jacket. Using light vs. dark symbolism is one of the easiest ways to visually show who the “good and bad guys” are. It’s remarkably simple, but nonetheless effective. The Step Brothers characters aren’t revolutionary by any means — but they’re so funny it doesn’t matter.

Step Brothers Script Takeaway #3

Step Brothers ending hits the right note

The motherf—ing Catalina wine mixer. You know it. I know it. It’s the biggest helicopter leasing event in wine country (in the world of Dale and Brennan). 

If you’ve ever gotten notes on a script before, you’ve probably read the ever so dreaded “needs specificity.” Think about it though — imagine if Ferrell and McKay tasked Dale with running a “fundraising event” rather than “the Catalina wine mixer.” One sounds boring, the other sounds exciting — the difference lies in specificity.

Let’s take a look at the scene from the script in which the Catalina wine mixer is introduced. Read closely, the structure is very different than the film.

Step Brothers Lines in the Script  •  Read the Catalina Wine Mixer Scene

The script does a great job of hyping up the Catalina wine mixer. This moment is the set-up for the climax of the story, so it’s essential that we buy into its importance. By using specificity, Ferrell and McKay take an innocuous event and turn it into something of grand importance. Oh, and it also foreshadows that Brennan is going to have to sing to pull everything together.

In the film, this scene plays out completely different. Let’s take a look:

Step Brothers Lines in the Film  •  Catalina Wine Mixer

Brennan takes the job at Derek’s company, not Dale. And Brennan asks to take the Catalina wine mixer job, he isn’t tasked with it. Ultimately, the same result is achieved — the Catalina wine mixer succeeds on the success of Brennan and Dale’s musical performance.

Brennan and Dale are really dual protagonists, so it isn’t too important which one is sitting in the chair.

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The Step Brothers movie script is a brilliant example of how to write modern comedy. If you want to continue reading screenplays, we have similar titles like Mean Girls, The Office, and Thor: Ragnarok in our screenplay database. Browse and download PDFs for all of our scripts as you read, write and practice your craft to become the next great screenwriter.

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