by N.V. Cooper | Thu., Oct. 4, 2007 1:10 PM
Review in a Hurry: It's heartbreaking enough to witness a shallow remake of a treasured classic, but it's equally depressing to watch comedy masters Ben Stiller and the Farrelly brothers go so completely off their game.
The Bigger Picture: The original, taboo-busting Heartbreak Kid from 1972 is about an ambitious Jewish guy who, on his honeymoon, tries to break free from his kvetching lower-class yenta bride and woo a wealthy shiksa goddess from Connecticut. In this new Kid, the Farrelly brothers strip out the satirical edge about social castes and instead offer us Stiller doing his same old schtick, some uninspired crotch gags, an insufferable third act and a donkey show.
Yep, a donkey show.
This may all sound swell to Farrelly fans who like to keep their comedy vulgar and free from smarts, but after such recent disappointments as Fever Pitch and Shallow Hal, The Heartbreak Kid only proves that Bobby and Peter's creative brand of comedy is in sharp decline.
Here's how it goes: Stiller is having lady problems again, this time as Eddie Cantrow, a single guy in his 40s who starts to feel anxious about that whole dying-miserable-and-alone thing. Eddie meets the quirky bubbling blonde Lila (Malin Akerman) and, after a two-minute montage of Eddie and Lila riding bikes and making out, they hastily marry. During their honeymoon at a Mexican resort, Lila's obnoxious habits, bizarre sexuality and disturbing secrets start coming out. At the resort, Eddie meets an earthy, edgy brunette and spends most of his honeymoon lying to Lila and canoodling with his new love interest.
Lila's cloying personality and Eddie's treacherous web of deceit give Stiller the opportunity to do his trademark bit: slow-burning nervousness that eventually erupts into a screaming outburst of seething rage. But this routine, which originally endeared audiences to Stiller in Meet the Parents, is now nothing short of tiresome.
Now, it would be silly to expect the Farelly brothers to taint their name-brand raunch comedies with the sardonic smarts of the original. But without it, the plot is thin and everyone in it flails. Where is that Stiller charm that made him so perfect in There's Something About Mary? Where is that special Farrelly touch that makes gross-out gags come off as shocking and gut busting rather than predictable and hackneyed?
With the huge success of Judd Apatow films (Knocked Up, etc.), it's clear audiences can handle both smart dialogue and incessant dick jokes. So, if the Farrellys insist on sticking to the gross physical stuff, they could at least make it, you know, good.
The 180—a Second Opinion: If you secretly love giggling at all those smelly little stereotypes about the gays, the fatsos, the rednecks and the Mexicans, then you will be absolutely tickled with The Heartbreak Kid! And you'll be in the dark, so no one can judge you for laughing at them.
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