When I told my roommate I'd just gotten back from the new FarrellyBrothers/Ben Stiller movie, "The Heartbreak Kid," his immediatequestion 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 FarrellyBros.? That they've found something they do well and stuck with it,content to ride out minor variations on their initial success till theend of their days?
I'd like to say that's fine -- that it's hard enough to find one thingyou're good at as an entertainer without having to worry about growingor changing -- but you know what, I think I'd rather they triedsomething new and crazy and really, really sucked at it than to keepgoing back to that same well for every one of their movies, becausethat well may once have been fresh, but these days it's starting totaste kind of funny, like maybe a dog fell into it a few weeks ago, orsomebody mistook it for a trash can at least, because it might nottaste outright poisonous, but it sure as heck isn't very good.
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In the Farrellys' remake of "The Heartbreak Kid," Stiller's successfuland, other than a tendency to babble, a pretty normal guy. Charming,even. But he's single, and as this movie apparently takes place in aBizarro World San Francisco where every single citizen is married bythe age of 40, this makes him a pariah.
Until he meets Malin Akerman, a blonde so hot Stiller spends all histime making out with her rather than getting to know her. Theirquick, montagey romance is interrupted when her job threatens to sendher to Europe for two years, forcing Stiller to marry her despite afew misgivings about just who she is.
Misgivings: justified! Before they've even finished their honeymooncar trip to Mexico, Stiller's having issues with Akerman, who turnsout to be annoying whenever her lips aren't mashed up against his.(Though she does provide further evidence for the comedic theory thatthe Spice Girls' "What I Want" is always hilarious -- Exhibit A, justtry singing along to it at top volume some day.) Before long, she'sgot a sunburn so bad she won't leave the hotel room, and has alsobecome a total harpy.
Left to himself, Stiller keeps bumping into Michelle Monaghan, anotherunreasonably attractive woman who, unlike his bride, has positivepersonality traits. Will sparks develop between them? Will there bemassive amounts of deception and misconception until true feelings aredeclared and everyone lives happily ever after?
Perhaps. What there won't be, however, is anything more than sporadicmoments of comedy, despite the talents of supporting cast JerryStiller and Rob Corddry, who serve as the walking joke-machines tocounter "The Heartbreak Kid's" dramatic side. Or what would be itsdramatic side, if Stiller's questionable decision to go after anotherwoman on his own honeymoon weren't kicked right over by the factAkerman's such a colossal jerk you couldn't fault Stiller even if hesmothered her to death with a triple-thick hotel towel.
Lacking any sense of danger or wrongdoing in Stiller and Monaghan'sbudding relationship, "The Heartbreak Kid" is awfully tame for a moviefrom a couple guys who got famous by being shocking. It might seem alittle more daring if the Farrelly Bros. hadn't already desensitizedour collective gag reflex with movies such as "There's Something AboutMary" and "Kingpin," but once you've seen that much semen in a moviethat isn't in .avi format, some woman talking frankly about her bodilyfunctions isn't exactly disgusting enough to provoke a laugh. Andother than that, there's not much going on here other than a lot ofthe usual romantic comedy cliches.
"The Heartbreak Kid" wants to be a big gross comedy with a gooeyemotional center, but mostly it's working at cross-purposes. Justfunny enough to avert disaster, it's not nearly funny enough to makeyou sad you'll never see any of these characters again.