Kid breaks more than just Stiller#039;s large ego

by Beacon Staff • October 3, 2007

That's the Cliff Notes version of success for directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly and they've pretty much presided over the kingdom of vulgarity since that excretion exchange in There's Something About Mary.,The formula seems so simple-attach a little semen to Ben Stiller's ear and Cameron Diaz's hair and voila, you and your brother become the gross-out kings of comedy.

That's the Cliff Notes version of success for directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly and they've pretty much presided over the kingdom of vulgarity since that excretion exchange in There's Something About Mary. Now the Farrellys are back with Mary star Ben Stiller for The Heartbreak Kid, a film that sports just as many nasty gags as Mary, but lacks the charm, wit and humor. Worst of all, it's highly forgettable.

The story, a remake of director Elaine May and screenwriter Neil Simon's 1972 comedy, focuses on sporting goods business owner Eddie Cantrow (Ben Stiller) a reluctant 40-year-old bachelor doomed to watch his friends and ex-girlfriends take the plunge into marriage.

Tired of being alone and constantly berated by his best friend Mac (Rob Corddry) and his father Doc (Jerry Stiller), Eddie decides to dive in to a premature marriage with Lila (Malin Akerman), a woman he's only known for a few months. She's pleasant enough; she seems smart and she's beautiful, too, so Eddie is pleased with his hasty decision.

Lila and Eddie get hitched and immediately head down to Cabo San Lucas for a romantic honeymoon. Everything seems to be going swimmingly. But if you've ever seen a Ben Stiller comedy before, you know that he can't just live happily ever after without suffering from a few soul-shattering and physically detrimental experiences.

The honeymoon is a disaster. With each minute we learn more and more about Lila's sordid past and her painful lovemaking habits. You won't see a more horrifying sex scene. The pain. Oh, the pain. But as long as it's Ben Stiller's pain, it's very funny.

He appears to be a nice guy, but it sure is fun to watch him suffer, and suffer he does-a lot. The film earns its hard R in the bedroom.

"This is a sex comedy, and I mean a real sex comedy like in the French tradition," Peter Farrelly said in a round-table conference call with the Beacon, when asked about the nudity.

While taking a breather from his insane bride, who remains in the hotel suffering from both a sun-burnt face and a makeup job that causes her to resemble Two-Face from Batman Forever, Eddie stumbles upon Miranda (Michelle Monaghan) who is vacationing with her family.

The two begin a casual dialogue at a bar which eventually leads to a romantic night together on the beach. It becomes increasingly apparent that Miranda is the girl of Eddie's dreams. So Eddie must continually invent excuses to leave his wife to see Miranda, while constantly fearing how Miranda will react when she finds out he's married. Lots of conflict, lots of love, lots of pain and a handful of laughs abound.

The Farrelly brothers' signature disgusting humor is here, but it's not as fun or as memorable as Stiller's prom night zip-up in Mary or Jason Alexander's tail in Shallow Hal.

There is a carnival scene in which the filmmakers give the viewer a rare opportunity to see a quick shot of a donkey show. But the gag is a little bit too awkward to be funny. It inspires more eye rolls than belly laughs.

Most of the film's humor comes from Akerman's Lila who inflicts all the pain upon Stiller. Her performance is among the highest recommendations of the film. Here is a beautiful woman that spends most of the movie making herself look disgusting. It's not just a superficial performance; she literally transforms herself from the perfect girl to the perfect monster. In going for broke with the role, her impact on the film is made even more apparent in the scenes she's not in, because when she's gone, the film drags.

"It's the funniest female role that we've ever been associated with," said Bobby Farrelly.

The final act is mostly Eddie trying to win back Miranda after everything is revealed. It lacks the fun and the momentum of the first hour and falls into a typical romantic comedy formula.

After the Farrellys burst onto the scene 13 years ago, turning stomachs with bodily fluid gags in Dumb and Dumber, they took a sabbatical from low-brow fare to focus on more personal work.

"We felt like [with] every movie, people were expecting us to break the ceiling in the same way. so we decided to do movies that were actually more heartfelt and would maybe surprise the audience in another way," says Peter Farrelly in reference to their more heartwarming films of recent years such as the Boston-based Fever Pitch and Stuck on You.

But with The Heartbreak Kid, the bodily fluid brothers are back, offering enough to keep any of their fans or those of Stiller's, occupied-at least until the credits roll and the jokes are all forgotten. A few repugnant chuckles aside, the film is ultimately insubstatial. Here's hoping the Farrelly brothers can reclaim their throne and deliver another long lasting/ gut wrenching/vomit inducing/gross-out comedy. Perhaps more sperm jokes next time.