When I told my roommate I'd just gotten back from the new Farrelly Brothers/Ben Stiller movie, "The Heartbreak Kid," his immediate question was, "Oh really? Did it involve Ben Stiller getting emasculated? Perhaps humiliated in a way that involves bodily fluids?"
And I had to tell him yes, yes it did, and in fact, those were, shockingly enough, two of the movie's biggest plot points.
Is that something we should hold against people like the Farrelly Bros.? That they've found something they do well and stuck with it, content to ride out minor variations on their initial success till the end of their days?
I'd like to say that's fine -- that it's hard enough to find one thing you're good at as an entertainer without having to worry about growing or changing -- but you know what, I think I'd rather they tried something new and crazy and really, really sucked at it than to keep going back to that same well for every one of their movies, because that well may once have been fresh, but these days it's starting to taste kind of funny, like maybe a dog fell into it a few weeks ago, or somebody mistook it for a trash can at least, because it might not taste outright poisonous, but it sure as heck isn't very good.
In the Farrellys' remake of "The Heartbreak Kid," Stiller's successful and, other than a tendency to babble, a pretty normal guy. Charming, even. But he's single, and as this movie apparently takes place in a Bizarro World San Francisco where every single citizen is married by the age of 40, this makes him a pariah.
Until he meets Malin Akerman, a blonde so hot Stiller spends all his time making out with her rather than getting to know her. Their quick, montagey romance is interrupted when her job threatens to send her to Europe for two years, forcing Stiller to marry her despite a few misgivings about just who she is.
Misgivings: justified! Before they've even finished their honeymoon car trip to Mexico, Stiller's having issues with Akerman, who turns out to be annoying whenever her lips aren't mashed up against his. (Though she does provide further evidence for the comedic theory that the Spice Girls' "What I Want" is always hilarious -- Exhibit A, just try singing along to it at top volume some day.) Before long, she's got a sunburn so bad she won't leave the hotel room, and has also become a total harpy.
Left to himself, Stiller keeps bumping into Michelle Monaghan, another unreasonably attractive woman who, unlike his bride, has positive personality traits. Will sparks develop between them? Will there be massive amounts of deception and misconception until true feelings are declared and everyone lives happily ever after?
Perhaps. What there won't be, however, is anything more than sporadic moments of comedy, despite the talents of supporting cast Jerry Stiller and Rob Corddry, who serve as the walking joke-machines to counter "The Heartbreak Kid's" dramatic side. Or what would be its dramatic side, if Stiller's questionable decision to go after another woman on his own honeymoon weren't kicked right over by the fact Akerman's such a colossal jerk you couldn't fault Stiller even if he smothered her to death with a triple-thick hotel towel.
Lacking any sense of danger or wrongdoing in Stiller and Monaghan's budding relationship, "The Heartbreak Kid" is awfully tame for a movie from a couple guys who got famous by being shocking. It might seem a little more daring if the Farrelly Bros. hadn't already desensitized our collective gag reflex with movies such as "There's Something About Mary" and "Kingpin," but once you've seen that much semen in a movie that isn't in .avi format, some woman talking frankly about her bodily functions isn't exactly disgusting enough to provoke a laugh. And other than that, there's not much going on here other than a lot of the usual romantic comedy cliches.
"The Heartbreak Kid" wants to be a big gross comedy with a gooey emotional center, but mostly it's working at cross-purposes. Just funny enough to avert disaster, it's not nearly funny enough to make you sad you'll never see any of these characters again.