As far as I can tell, the Farrelly Brothers did just one thing that’s different in this movie than they’ve done in their previous films. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you what that is without ruining the ending. So, lets talk about what they did…again.
Eddie Cantrow (Ben Stiller) is a commitment-phobic sporting goods store owner whose father (Jerry Stiller) and best friend Mac (Rob Corddry) relentlessly hassle him about being 40 and never married. Eddie immediately meets Lila (Malin Akerman) and they hit it off and rush to the altar. On their honeymoon in Cabo, Mexico their fairy tale relationship unravels and Eddie quickly realizes the girl he’s married isn’t who he thought she was. A chance meeting with another resort guest named Miranda (Michelle Monaghan) completes the set-up for this screwball comedy. Eddie falls for Miranda and her vacationing family, in spite of the fact that his new wife, fallen ill, is still in the honeymoon suite.
“The Heartbreak Kid” is a remake of the 1972 film of the same name starring Charles Grodin which utilized the same basic premise. The plot device is solid– married to the wrong woman, a guy meets the girl of his dreams on his honeymoon and disaster ensues. It lends itself well to the endless gag work that the Farrellys are known for.
The film gets off to an odd start. The dialogue in the opening scenes with the two Stillers feel like rehearsal takes with the actors reading their lines. It’s exciting to see father and son teaming up again, but neither hit their stride until much further in. Frankly, “The Heartbreak Kid” takes awhile to get going in general. We don’t ever develop a connection to Eddie like we have with other classic Stiller characters such as Ted from “There’s Something About Mary” or Greg Focker in “Meet the Parents.” The film doesn’t find itself until the second act and the introduction of Monaghan.
Once again, the Farrellys use stereotypes to make fun of people in a way that’s neither politically correct or acceptable in real life. It is the same way they were able to make fun of fat people throughout “Shallow Hal,” and hit us with a morality message in the end about appreciating inner beauty. There’s no message in this movie, but there are some predictably offensive character presentations.
The Farrellys make fun of Mexicans in a particularly unsophisticated manner. Carlos Mencia plays Uncle Tito, a character with all the nuance of Cheech Marin in “Shrimp on the Barbie,” and yet the audience I saw it with was laughing despite the offensive depiction. Mencia himself appears to be fine with it, so what gives?
Jerry Stiller gets the “Betty White-in-Lake Placid” treatment, also known as giving the oldest actors the crudest dialogue. Making long in the teeth characters say things they would never say has become a standard maneuver in schtick comedies. At this point however, that trick is no longer shocking, its lame. It makes the movie feel like an earlier Farrelly brothers movie when we’re all hoping for even just a nugget of progression somewhere in the mix.
The Farrellys just keep doing what works, but I wonder how safe that is these days with guys like Judd Apatow out there. Apatow has proven just this year with “Knocked Up” that it is possible to be as crass and over-the-top as the Farrelly brothers and also have a well-written story and characters. That kind of depth makes the Farrellys’ work seem thinner than it used to. They have more competition now than they did in the early days.
I suppose is one of life’s cruel ironies. They begat imitators who are now coming along and doing it better, which only serves to highlight the fact that they haven’t evolved.
If Farrelly Brothers films are your particular cup of tea then you’ve got nothing to worry about. You’ll be thrilled by the predictability of “The Heartbreak Kid.” You can wrap yourself in a warm blanket of gross out humor, gag after gag and Ben Stiller doing his thing.
For the rest of us looking for Farrelly Brothers The Next Generation, we’ll just have to wait. The crumb of a plot choice that I won’t talk about is stock stuff. It isn’t revolutionary for them or anyone else. When its all said and done the Farrellys definitely make movies we laugh at, but I’m just not sure they are actually that funny.