Perhaps a reunion with Ben Stiller rekindled a little of that Farrelly fire. because The Heartbreak Kid, a remake of the Charles Grodin-Cybill Shepherd comedy from 1972, is the brothers' most deliberate effort to recapture that Mary magic.
Stiller once again agrees to pursue the girl of his dreams around an exotic locale (Cabo San Lucas this time instead of Mary's hometown of Miami). And with Stiller comes the actor's willingness to endure the emotional and physical wringer for the good of a grotesque Farrelly gag or two.
The comedian plays Eddie Cantrow, a 40-something commitment-phobe who, for assorted reasons, has avoided taking the marital plunge. When Eddie meets beautiful Lila (Malin Akerman) after a chance encounter, his father (Jerry Stiller) and best friend, Mac (Rob Corddry), convince him to finally pop the question. Vows are exchanged, and the newlyweds jet-set to a honeymoon in paradise that, of course, is destined to fail.
The famous football player Paul Hornung was quoted once as saying, "Never get married in the morning, because you never know who you'll meet that night." Hornung nailed the Heartbreak plot, for the longer Eddie spends with Lila, the more he realizes they are not meant to be together. She's overly aggressive in bed, distrustful of his advice, annoyingly possessive, and mysterious about her past. After a crippling sunburn sidelines Lila for days, Eddie explores their Mexican resort and winds up meeting his soul mate, Miranda (Michelle Monaghan).
Similarities between the '72 version and this update fade once the Farrellys start applying their trademark comedic ticks. Heartbreak is textbook Farrelly brothers. Racial jabs and pornographic asides compete with gay jokes for face time. Obesity, skin rashes, breast augmentations, and other physical abnormalities are openly mocked. For the Farrellys, who tackled such issues in Shallow Hal and Stuck on You, this is practically a way of celebrating one's uniqueness in this conventional world.
Stiller, once again, is a game foil for the Farrellys. He exploits that comedic pocket he has created somewhere between a metaphorical rock and a hard place. Yes, we've seen Stiller dangle on a hook countless times before, but the energy he releases when backed against a wall makes even the most mundane situation seem refreshingly new.
But Stiller isn't a one-man show. Akerman corners Lila's psychological imbalance even as she plows through embarrassingly physical bedroom scenes. And Monaghan brings a sexy tomboy quality to her part that will win over every guy in the audience. The trio has fun with the sharp wordplay and clever misunderstandings in the script.
Remember, though, we are a long way off from the original '72 screenplay, which was credited to Neil Simon. I've yet to see that Heartbreak, though I'd wager my mortgage it doesn't include a scene where the lead actor is urinated on after being stung by a jellyfish. As expected, the Farrellys' ribald humor pushes the envelope at times, though more often than not, there's compassion and hilarity to their vulgarity.
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Producer: John Davis, Joe Rosenberg, Marc S. Fischer