Occasionally my wife will buy US Magazine and when she does I usually make sure to check out one of my favorite tabloid pictorials “who wore it best.” If you have chosen to spend your time by bettering your life rather than flipping through the pages of celebrity toilet paper then let me explain the premise. Who wore it best will pit two celebrities against one another by showing a side by side comparison of each wearing the same outfit. Online readers then have the chance to vote on… who wore it best.
In honor of my favorite tabloid pictorial we will be introducing a new series here on the website, Who Used it Best. In this series we will take a look at two movies that use the same song. For our first Who used it best, we will compare and contrast the use of Hall and Oats, You make my dreams come true in both Step Brothers and 500 Days of Summer.
This is not the first time this instant classic has been featured on the website, you might remember its previous appearance in Comfort Movie. That said it was the first of a pair of movies to bring about the relative resurgence of Hall and Oats from the depths of music trash can. Readers should take comfort in knowing that while Step Brothers is one of my favorite movies, this will not sway my decision on way or the other.
How they use it.
I won’t delve too deeply into the plot of the film but what you need to understand is that the two main characters Brennan Huff (Will Ferrell) and Dale Doback (John C. Reilly) become 40 year old step brothers when their parents marry. At first they are unreceptive to one another, you might even say bitter enemies but after a dinner with Brendan’s brother Derek Huff (Adam Scott) in which they both find a common hatred for someone other than each other, they become best friends. In fact the song begins with Brennan saying, “Did we just become best friends?” To which Dale responds “Yup!”
What follows is a montage of two 40 year old boys becoming friends in ways you would expect two 10 year old children to. Karate in the garage, measuring their penises, mixing mentos with Diet Coke, sword fight (the one with pee), watching Steven Seagal films, and concludes with both turning their two twin beds into a makeshift bunk bed.
What makes it great.
Watching John C. Reilly and Will Ferrell act like ten year olds is comedy gold and this montage is filled with the activities that brothers and best friends do when they are young to help bond one another. What makes the whole thing better is the fact that they seem to bond by doing all of them over the course of two hours after having spent the first third of the movie as bitter rivals. Each activity as described above is funny enough on its own but when combined they become outright hilarious.
Quite honestly there are only two drawbacks to the song as used in the movie and they equate to someone answering the, “What are your weaknesses?” question with “I work to hard.” The fact is all I could really come up with is that the whole scene is far too short, the song could have gone on longer to include more bonding experiences. Perhaps it would have thrown the pacing of the film off, but I don’t really care about pacing when watching two 40 year old men have a “sword fight.”
The other drawback to the scene is that because the movie is already off the charts hilarious the montage doesn’t stand out as particularly great. Sure whenever I hear the song You make my dreams come true, I always hear “Do you want to do karate in the garage?” in my head. But that is not better than say “I smoked pot with Johnny Hopkins,” or “It’s okay that mines not movie quality.” While a great scene it does not rise above the rest of the movie. If you’re wondering what exactly those two quotes mean then you have not yet experienced the immortal genius of Adam McKay’s Step Brothers.
(500) Days of Summer
This movie tends to be rather polarizing, people either loved it for it’s sweet indie odd ball qualities or they hated it for all the same reasons. Personally I fall right in between, it’s a great concept which is executed well, the script is sometimes wonky but with a great actor like Joseph Gordon-Levitt to balance it out most of the time I forgive it’s flaws. My real problems with the film are that A. Zooey Deschanel is not the incredible woman the film asks us to believe she is. In fact she’s just a bitch, never once do I see her side of the story. B. The film takes place in Los Angeles but the characters seem to be living in a city more like New York. It was not a surprise to discover that it was originally written to take place in San Francisco. C. During a Karaoke scene Joseph Gordon-Levitt sings The Pixies, Here comes your man which I head never once heard anyone sings at Karaoke. Just as with Step Brothers, I will act as a mostly partial judge and will not allow my frustrations with portions of the film to obstruct my decision making.
How they use it.
Just as with Step Brothers let me give you some context for the use of the song. (500) Days of Summer, is a story about 500 days of Summer (Zooey Deschanel) in the life of main character Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). The story is told out of order jumping from day 5 to day 105 in just moments, most often happy scenes jump to scenes of sadness and depression. In the story Tom meets Summer and is instantly in love with her, Summer meanwhile sends mixed messages to Tom about what exactly she is looking for, a fling, friendship, or a relationship. The song comes into play when finally Tom gets into Summers apartment and they have sex for the first time.
He awakes refreshed and ready for a new day, emerging from the building and thrusting a fist of triumph in the air. As the song plays he dances his way down the street, hugging and high fiving strangers as he goes along. At one point to stops to fix his hair in a shop window and instead sees Han Solo winking back at him. From there we delve further into an absurd dance sequence where the ridiculousness climaxes when a cartoon blue bird lands on Toms finger. He continues by dancing his way into the elevator at work. The song closes as the doors to the elevator close, when they open we have jumped ahead a hundred days or so and now Tom is depressed.
What makes it great.
At times the film can be a bit moody, though there are very funny moments this scene really stands out as outrageously hilarious. The director uses various story telling techniques including a split screen that depicts a scene in fantasy and reality, the songs bit of absurdist humor comes at just the right moment in the film to help try and justify the use of a mysterious narrator, or the unique story telling techniques. The Han Solo reflection is a stroke of genius, it takes you by surprise and the director really earns the laugh and then justifies it to the audience with the dancing. The last part of what makes the scene great is that unlike Step Brothers where the song is used as a back drop, in (500) Days of Summer it is used as narrative. The characters are dancing to the music, they can actually hear it, and this takes it to a whole other level of musical theater mockery.
In (500) Days of Summer the scene completely stands out as arguably the best in the movie. Subtract the scene from Step Brothers and I don’t love it any less, subtract the scene from (500) Days of Summer and the movie loses a great deal of likability. While I was formulating the idea for this article I discussed the movie with a number of people some who did and some who didn’t like the movie but across the board everyone thought this was the best scene by far.
The other drawback of the scene is context, as the audience we immediately understand what has occurred, Tom has finally had sex with Summer and he is celebrating. The problem is that Summer is such an appalling character that I have a hard time believing that one could really be that happy about reaching home plate with her. I can’t really think of any actress who contains the qualities that the character of Summer supposedly possesses, Zooey Deschanel definitely does not have them.
Before Step Brothers and (500) Days of Summer I can’t say I was a fan of You make my dreams come true, now I have it on my ipod and use it as an instant pick me up. This I credit directly to two movies that use it well. I didn’t develop any kind of scoring system to determine the winner, instead I will rely solely on intuition.
It was very close and could have gone either way but in the end I had to go with (500) Days of Summer. While I enjoy the movie, to me it is just not as good as Step Brothers, but the fact that the song use in the movie was so much better from everything else I had to give it the nod. As I mentioned before there are plenty of equally funny scenes in Step Brothers but for (500) Days of Summer the scene really stands out.
Of course this is just my unsolicited opinion, go ahead and watch both scenes and then vote in our poll here.