While I'm not convinced that the Farrelly Brothers will ever beat their hysterically funny sophmore effort ("Kingpin"), the duo have continued to go back to the romantic comedy well since "There's Something About Mary", still their biggest hit. Their latest picture, "The Heartbreak Kid", is a remake of the Neil Simon/Elaine May pic and stars Ben Stiller as Eddie, an always-single guy who is consistently pushed by his father (Jerry Stiller, of course Ben's real father) to get laid.
He runs into Lila (Malin Akerman) and while he thinks that she's wonderful, he finds that he has to make a choice when she is called away on a research assignment overseas. If she gets married, the company won't move her (only later does he find out that she's a volunteer and not an environmental researcher.) Pressured by his father and his pal (Rob Corddry) to not let this one go, he decides to take the plunge and marry Lila.
It's only when the two are on the way to their honeymoon in Cabo that he realizes that he may have made a mistake. She's rather aggressive in bed (after one round later in the movie, the camera pans over to see Stiller's character curled up and shaking, horrified at what he's just been put through), he's not. She sings along to the radio, he gets annoyed. She farts loudly in one scene and he's horrified (apparently he hasn't learned that, if the woman you're with farts in front of you, that is just one of the many elements of true love.) There's also her bizarre nasal issues, which cause things to get stuck in her nose constantly. Oh, and she's bad at math (looking at an old couple, she hopes that that will be her and Eddie in 10 years.)
When Lila gets a terrible sunburn and is stuck in the room trying to recover, Eddie starts chatting up Miranda (Michelle Monaghan), another tourist who he finds charming. As Eddie and Miranda chat away on the beach at night, he begins to wonder if it's not possible to start over again with someone else. The movie isn't without some laughs, but there's certainly some issues. Eddie isn't the world's nicest guy either, and despite the fact that his new wife is a bit screwed up, she's actually kind of a nice person and acts like she cares and wants to make it work, in her own rather twisted way. The movie lumps the blame on her and wants the audience to hate her, but she's clearly not evil - despite her issues, beneath it all, she seems to mean well. Also working against the situation is the fact that Stiller and Ackerman have little chemistry with one another.
When Lila finds out that Eddie wants to end it and has been talking with Miranda, she makes sure that Eddie remains stuck South of the border, which results in a bizarrely amusing montage of Eddie making various attempts to sneak across the border back into the U.S. Instead of going back to California, he heads to Mississippi in order to track down Miranda, who's already decided to get married - to someone else. So, he breaks into her house and wakes her up in bed while her new husband is sleeping next to her in order to try to convince her to be with him.
The Farrellys' trademark sweetness and heart isn't in evidence here (in fact, this is the brothers' first film that has moments that are rather cruel), although the film does see their somewhat rusty return to R-rated territory. There's a few gags that work, but a few of the more raunchy gags feel out-of-place or as if they've been done better by others since the Farrellys last R-rated movie before this one ("Me, Myself and Irene" seven years ago.) The performances aren't bad - Jerry Stiller gets a few laughs playing against Ben and "The Daily Show"'s Rob Corddry (who could have played Stiller's role in this better than Stiller does) steals a few scenes. Carlos Mencia ("Mind of Mencia") is unfunny as a hotel concierge, seemingly thinking he's doing a bit from his show.
Ackerman does her best in sort of a thankless role, but the movie never really takes the character very far - she's presented as horrifying, but the character isn't the monster (the movie's view on women is that they are either nags, objects or monsters) that the movie seems to think she is. Stiller no longer seems to play the nice everyguy that finally wins in the end, and here he plays a character that's the kind of jerk who's completely unaware that he's being kind of a jerk. If Eddie is supposed to be an anti-hero, then fine, but at least have him embrace it a bit (like Woody Harrelson in "Kingpin".) We're not sure that we want him to be with the sweet Miranda, either - and the "twist" ending reinforces that. Barry Sonnenfeld ("Get Shorty") was originally supposed to direct, and while he's had some misfires, I'm curious as to how Sonnenfeld would have approached the project.
Overall, "The Heartbreak Kid" moves along at a reasonably good clip and manages some moderately funny moments, but the story gets increasingly convoluted as it goes on and the characters - aside from Monaghan's character, although that character remains rather one-dimensional - are just not very engaging. Something of a disappointment after the Farrellys pulled off the miracle of making Jimmy Fallon not totally annoying in "Fever Pitch".
An oddity: while the picture is still rated R here, there is a note before the film begins that it has been edited for content. I didn't see the film theatrically so I don't know what the difference is (and there's no explanation for it), but it's dismaying to see that the film is apparently missing some footage, despite the fact that the running times seem to be about the same.
VIDEO: "The Heartbreak Kid" is presented by Paramount in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The presentation quality remained pretty good; while sharpness and detail weren't exceptional, the picture still looked consistently crisp throughout. Flaws remained limited to some slight edge enhancement and a couple of minor instances of artifacting. Colors looked bright and warm, with nice saturation and no smearing.
SOUND: The picture is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. This was purely a "comedy mix", with little in the way of surround use nor much need for the rear speakers. Audio quality was fine, with crisp dialogue, music and ambience.
EXTRAS: Writer/director Peter and Bobby Farrelly offer a commentary for the picture. While they are famous for spending the majority of some of their commentaries pointing out their friends who have wound up in the movie, they only do that infrequently here. While I didn't particularly like the flick, the two provide a reasonably informative, rather informal chat about pulling the remake together and what they feel worked and what they feel didn't.
We also get a featurette on the Farrellys and their career, another on the egg toss for the cast and crew (the cinematographer won), one on Ben and Jerry Stiller acting in the film together and finally, a look at the on-set Halloween party. Rounding out the extras section are a few deleted scenes (including one that shows Lila does get a little darker), a gag reel and previews for other titles from the studio.
Final Thoughts:Overall, "The Heartbreak Kid" moves along at a reasonably good clip and manages some moderately funny moments, but the story gets increasingly convoluted as it goes on and the characters - aside from Monaghan's character, although that character remains rather one-dimensional - just not very engaging. The DVD presentation offers fine audio/video quality and some nice extras, but I'm still curious as to what's been "edited" here.
The Film C