There are times when I sit down to watch a Ben Stiller movie and I believe that he is, without a shadow of a doubt, the best comedic actor out there today. With the right script, there are very few actors that will make audiences laugh as hard as Mr. Stiller. However, there are movies where he falls into the same category as Vince Vaughn – a brilliant comedic talent that plays the same role over and over again. His role in The Heartbreak Kid, a Farrelly Brothers movie, to me, seems all too similar to the roles he played in Meet the Parents, Meet the Fockers, Along Came Polly, Envy, Duplex, and Flirting with Disaster. In all these movies Stiller plays a neurotic schmuck who winds up in odd situations that pull his life apart in many ways, and we watch him pick up the pieces and make everything whole again. It’s a routine Stiller has used to his advantage, but it’s something he needs to do less of in the future – especially when the result is a heartbreaking remake of a 1972 movie written by Neil Simon, and starring Charles Grodin and Cybil Shepherd.
Eddie Cantrow (Stiller) is a confirmed 40-year-old bachelor who owns his own sports equipment store in San Francisco. Up until this point in his life, he’s been afraid to take the plunge into the next phase of his life – hence, the reason he is stuck at the “singles” table at his ex-fiancée’s wedding. Things change during a chance encounter with a beautiful blonde named Lila (Malin Akerman) and, before he knows it, they’re six weeks into their relationship and he’s asking her to marry him to prevent her from moving to Germany with her “job.” However, it’s during their honeymoon in Mexico that Eddie starts to discover that the woman of his dreams is truly a nightmare, and that there truly are more fish in the sea.
The Heartbreak Kid reunites Stiller with the wacky minds of the Farrelly Brothers, the creators of the 1998 smash-hit There’s Something About Mary. The gross-out, unpredictable, and off-the-wall humor of the Farrelly’s is still present, but the heart that always seems to find its way into their movies is nowhere to be found. For the most part, the character of Cantrow is kind of boring, as is everything that happens to the character – it’s all predictable (minus the whole trying to re-enter the United States as an illegal alien and the film’s final scene, which is actually pretty funny). You know that Stiller will marry this blonde bombshell (you knew that by watching the trailer). You know that this marriage, especially after only six weeks of dating, is going downhill – it’s just a matter of how far it will roll. You also know that once Eddie and Lila are on their honeymoon, and Eddie begins talking to Miranda (Michelle Monaghan), an all-around cool chick, there would be some sort of big explosion in Mexico.
While the movie as a whole lacks balance, there are some good laughs along the way. Besides Stiller garnering some laughs while playing his normal manic “I’m an idiot with a hot woman” role, Akerman is the one this movie should be focusing on longer – just like in There’s Something About Mary (focus on the hot blonde). Akerman is a beautiful woman who seems bland when she starts sucking face with Stiller all over San Francisco, but that is before the titty-twisting of the Farrelly’s truly kicks in. Once they’re married, this woman becomes a comedic dream. She becomes the type of person that sings along with every song in the car, and it doesn’t matter if it’s Barry Manilow, Gloria Estefan, or the Spice Girls. If it’s on, she’s singing.
Also, since Eddie and Lila never slept together while they were dating, how was he supposed to know that he was getting a complete freak in bed who lives for rough sex, positions the Kama Sutra would be embarrassed to have left out, and being “jackhammered.” She also has a deviated septum, so liquids randomly fly from her nose, pills get stuck in there, and she snores louder than a Howitzer. On top of all this, she has to hold Eddie’s hand while eating, has a debt of $26,000 due to an old cocaine problem, which apparently caused her deviated septum, and the “job” she says she has as an environmental researcher is really volunteer work – so Eddie is the sole breadwinner of the couple. How do you not give this woman more screen time?
Not only is Akerman funny and gorgeous, but Stiller’s at his best when she’s on the screen. When Lila is not in, or starts fading from the picture, Eddie starts to become a jerk, and an overall unlikeable character – therefore, unfunny. So, instead of sticking Uncle Tito (Carlos Mencia), the porn-obsessed resort owner, on screen doing a bad George Lopez imitation, why not give someone that’s actually funny, and has a positive effect on the movie, a few more lines? Also, while Monaghan fits the image of the “dream girl” perfect for Eddie, her character dulls down the movie. It’s like watching your VHS copy of There’s Something About Mary and halfway through someone decided to tape over it with Fever Pitch.
The Heartbreak Kid is not devoid of humor, but it is missing things that make movies by the Farrelly’s so brilliant and entertaining. Yes, the gross-out humor is there (seeing Lila pull her pants down to urinate on Eddie’s back to ease the sting of a jellyfish is about as gross as you get), but it really doesn’t do anything for the film. Yes, Ben Stiller is put in a lot of uncomfortable situations (like always), but they don’t work as well as they did 10 years ago. It’s also way too long, coming in just under two hours. It’s not a failed collaboration by Stiller and the Farrelly’s, it’s just misguided. The movie could have also been funnier if given some more father-son time, meaning, give Eddie and Doc (Ben and Jerry Stiller) more time together. It is not often that you get two comedic actors as talented, and as funny (or related), as the Stiller’s. Some of the biggest laughs come from Jerry Stiller, as Eddie’s perverse, foul-mouthed father who wants to take his son to Vegas to double-team some women. That would be a funny movie – a sex-obsessed father and his undersexed son set out on a road trip to tag team as many women across the country. Hey, it could lead to heartbreak, and all you have to do is change the title to The Heartbreak Kids. Now that is a Farrelly Brothers film.
As with any heartbreak, you have to eventually get back up on that horse and start riding again. Sure, it will hurt for a while, especially when the expectations were so high, but you’ll get over it. Plus, there is always the hope that better things will come along. The same theory goes for DVDs. Just because the movie disappoints you, doesn’t mean the features will. Plus, some of the best surprises (and sex) comes on the rebound. So, cheer up. There’s something to look forward to. Well, there should be. There’s always the chance you’ll wind up lonely and miserable.
For almost any other movie, I would highly recommend skipping the director commentary – mainly because 90 percent of the time it’s some uninteresting moron with no vision talking about how great his crappy movie turned out. This, however, is not the case when dealing with the Farrelly Brothers. Even though The Heartbreak Kid may not have been the greatest movie, this duo is extremely funny and deserves to be heard. The truth is, you can tell what kind of commentary it will be during the first scene of the movie, where the brothers say they based Jerry Stiller’s foul-mouthed character on their own vulgar father. They speak of how their own father called them “cocksuckers.” This is not your normal, run-of-the-mill commentary. These guys are out there, they’re funny and they’re pretty good filmmakers. Need I say more?
“The Farrelly Bros. in The French Tradition” is a feature that focuses on the two directors. They discuss everything from odd jobs they had before they were filmmakers and how they were never very good in school, to the fact that they really don’t know how to work a camera. It’s a nice feature that shows footage of shooting The Heartbreak Kid, but never actually goes into any detail about the movie itself during the nearly 17-minute feature. The most interesting part is when Peter Farrelly discusses how difficult making films became after There’s Something About Mary, mainly due to the expectations. He said prior to Mary, there were no expectations – it came out of nowhere to become a huge hit. Now, since they’ve had the big hit, it’s harder for them to reach that same peak again because they are expected to do certain things. It’s actually refreshing to hear him talk about actually caring what kind of movie he puts out and not willing to just give the public just any piece of crap – even if it turns out being, well, a piece of crap.
No, the “Ben & Jerry” feature has nothing to do with the Farrelly Brothers’ love for the ice cream makers. It does, however, have to do with the father-son relationship of the “Hebrew All-Stars,” Ben and Jerry Stiller. For those of you who are fans of either, or both, of these great comedians, it is a superb feature- a history lesson of sorts on the Stiller family and how everything got started. This is the advantage of having Ben and Jerry work together – great, in-depth features about people who are not only successful, but great at what they do.
“Heartbreak Halloween” is pretty much the most useless three minutes on the disc. It talks about the cast and crew having a Halloween party and shows them in costume on set. Really? You dressed up on Halloween? That’s original. Who cares? It’s like me making a documentary on wiping my ass to make it look more fun than it really is. Could I make one? Sure. Would people watch? No. Why? Because it’s me wiping my ass! Do I really care that these people dressed up as Teenwolf or a devil and had a party? No! Another useless feature is “The Egg Toss.” Yes, it’s interesting that they used a silly child event as a way for the crew to come together and trust one another, but do we really need an entire feature on it? It’s still people tossing eggs, right? There’s no nudity, or the occasional piping hot potato being thrown in for fun, right? If it’s still just people throwing eggs in the air and catching it, I don’t think I need to see it. I’d rather just make an omelet.
The “Gag Reel” for The Heartbreak Kid is actually really disappointing, mainly because it’s not all that funny. Maybe Peter Farrelly was right when he said the expectations for them have gotten really high, because I did expect to laugh a little bit. Unfortunately, I didn’t. Watching the Stillers mess up their lines or others curse profusely is not necessarily funny.
The final feature contains six deleted scenes, including “On the Beach,” “Fire Dancers,” Breakfast Order,” “Sky Diver,” and “Pillow.” All of these scenes were either deleted with good reason, or were unnecessary extensions to scenes already in the film. However, there is one scene that is particularly funny, even though it comes during a part of the film which happened to have been painfully bad. It is a scene called “Driving with Dad.” It is a total of 46 seconds long, but it features a phone call from Lila to Eddie and a brief discussion about the call and women in general between father and son. The scene features the three elements that really work for the film, and, therefore, should be included in it. It is funny, it’s vulgar and it’s silly. It’s a true Farrelly moment, but they left it out – like many of the moments we were all expecting from them in this film.