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There’s a moment early on in The Heartbreak Kid where Jerry Stiller, playing movie father to his real life son Ben Stiller’s character, suggests his boy stop worrying about romance and instead follow him to Vegas where they’ll pick up chicks for a double team. The Farrelly Brothers’ script goes the other way instead, but the movie’s too few moments between Stiller and Stiller are so gut-bustingly hilarious it’s hard not to wonder how much funnier the film might have been had it ended up being about a 40ish man and his elderly father chasing hookers around Sin City. Instead, we’re saddled with what is basically another formulaic romance comedy, spiced up with classic Farrelly Brothers raunch artifice. Oh how they make Ben Stiller suffer. And it’s funny, except we’ve seen this movie dozens of times before. Unfortunately we haven’t seen that better father and son buddy movie. It’s as if Heartbreak Kid’s script were a Choose Your Own Adventure book, and the Farrellys chose the less entertaining path to follow.
The possibilities of a different movie might be tantalizing, but The Heartbreak Kid is entertaining enough as is. Though it’s a remake of a 1972 Charles Grodin/Cybil Shepherd movie, it’s standard Farrelly Brothers/Ben Stiller stuff. Ben is Eddie Cantrow, an aging commitment-phobe who when faced with the frightening possibility that he’ll never find true love, marries the next woman that’ll have him. It’s not till they’re on their way to their honeymoon that he realizes he may have made a huge mistake.
Rather than correcting that mistake or god forbid, doing the honorable thing and trying to make it work, Eddie makes the same mistake all over again. With his slightly crazy new bride Lila (Malin Akerman) holed up in their bridal sweet nursing a sunburn, Eddie meets a new girl at the hotel bar and instantly falls in love with her. The girl is Miranda (Michelle Monaghan) and she’s blissfully unaware that the cute guy she’s just bumped into is actually a recently married man.
The movie’s best moments happen when Eddie’s being tortured, because let’s face it, he kind of deserves it. Ben Stiller is great fun when he’s getting the shit kicked out of him and the Farrellys are better at making him miserable than just about anyone. Stiller’s scenes with Malin Ackerman are varying shades of hilarious, with Ackerman willing to do just about anything to get the kind of sick uncomfortable laughs a good Farrellys movie deserves.
Sadly Michelle Monaghan will probably get all the credit, since she’s the movie’s token dream girl. But the story of Eddie and Miranda is really where the movie falls down. Ultimately it’s hard to care if they get together since, let’s face it, Eddie is kind of an asshole. We know that Miranda can and should do better so it’s hard to root for Eddie to win her heart. The first half is where The Heartbreak Kid works best, since that’s when we get the least of Miranda and more of Ben Stiller interacting with Ackerman, Jerry Stiller, or other comedic sidekicks like Rob Corddry and Carlos Mencia.
Again I come back to the movie that might have been, a movie that forgets the love angle and pursues killer laughs instead of a happy ending. At least the Farrellys have the good sense to make Ben Stiller suffer for his sins and, even though it ends on a high note, the Farrellys can’t resist setting Ben Stiller up for more failure just as the credits roll. No matter how many times we’ve seen it, there’s nobody I’d rather watch fall apart than Ben Stiller.