DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
HEARTBREAK KID, THE (director/writer: Peter Farrelly and Bobby Farrelly; screenwriters: based on the screenplay by Neil Simon and the short story “A Change of Plan” by Bruce Jay Friedman/Scot Armstrong/Leslie Dixon/Kevin Barnett; cinematographer: Matthew F. Leonetti; editors: Alan Baumgarten/Sam Seig; music: Brendan Ryan/Bill Ryan; cast: Ben Stiller (Eddie), Michelle Monaghan (Miranda), Malin Akerman (Lila), Jerry Stiller (Doc), Rob Corddry (Mac), Carlos Mencia (Uncle Tito), Scott Wilson (Boo), Danny McBride (Martin), Roy Jenkins (Buzz), Lauren Bowles (Tammy); Runtime: 115; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Ted Field/Bradley Thomas/John Davis; DreamWorks Pictures and Paramount Pictures; 2007)

 
"A bitter disappointment."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The Farrelly Brothers' ("Shallow Hall"/"There's Something About Mary"/"Kingpin") loose remake of the 1972 Elaine May classic comedy "The Heartbreak Kid" is a bitter disappointment. It turns the Neil Simon well-observed social satire comedy over the Jewish-WASP rift into a mean-spirited and ugly gross-out marital comedy that leaves more bad vibes than good ones, as it chases after different laughs and has a different twist to the story than an ethnic one. It follows basically the same premise as the original of a guy who gets married, soon regrets it and falls in love with another woman while on his honeymoon, but it comes with the Farrelly Brothers' lowbrow shock joke trademarks that replace the witty and soulful ethnic humor with meaningless insulting in-your-face vulgarities that are mostly off-putting. It can't make nice after making nasty throughout, and the character-driven comedy finds all the characters unsympathetic figures who seem either twisted, monstrous, shallow or just plain bad eggs. Ugh!

The 40-year-old neurotic bachelor Eddie Cantrow (Ben Stiller) lives in San Francisco, where he owns a sporting goods store, gets salty advice on “crushing pussy” from his profane talking elderly horny dad (Jerry Stiller, his real-life dad) and is told by his hen-pecked best friend Mac (Rob Corddry) that he's too picky and should realize that what makes a good marriage is to ‘plaster on a smile and wait patiently for the sweet embrace of death.’ Soon after being humiliated at the wedding of his ex-girlfriend by being seated at a singles table where he was the only adult, Eddie befriends a leggy blonde victim of a street mugging named Lila (Malin Akerman, Swedish rocker) and under the urging of his dad and best friend marries her in a six-week whirlwind romance before he knows much about her. During their honeymoon drive to Cabo, a fancy Mexico resort, Eddie becomes repulsed as Lila turns out to be a ditz who sings along to the popular rock music on the car radio. In Mexico, he's further turned off that she not only likes S&M and rough sex but demands that he should perform in bed like a gymnast; that she eats like a glutton; misuses words; has a deviated septum from a former coke habit that causes unpleasant objects to drop from her snout; has accumulated a large debt; her ecological research job is only a volunteer one without requiring her to do real science or to be paid; and she foolishly ignores his warning about the dangers of being out in the sun without sunblock and thereby gets confined to her room over a bad burn. With Lila turned into a monster who can't play outside, this gives Eddie the opportunity and the excuse needed to meet someone else. He does so when he bumps into the college lacrosse coach, the girl of his dreams, the lovely brunette Miranda (Michelle Monaghan), who is down here on holiday with her large extended Oxford, Mississippi family, and the two begin a relationship without him telling her that he's on his honeymoon. It leads to the inevitable meeting between Lila and Miranda, and the predictable fireworks that follow.

The film rolls out a barrel full of misguided and mostly unfunny dirty jokes, ones that cover such varied topics as homophobia, pissing on one's body, a pushy mariachi band, Mexicans with funny accents ripping off tourists, and physical insult jokes. Stiller's self-absorbed wise guy routine grows increasingly pathological as the story winds down, and the film never breaks any one's heart as promised (actually accomplished in the original). It does however end up in the same sorry state as the cad-like Stiller character, as one motherfucka of a joyless pic. 

REVIEWED ON 10/5/2007        GRADE: C

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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