Heartbreak Kid, The

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A movie review by James Berardinelli



Heartbreak Kid, The

COMEDY:

United States, 2007

U.S. Release Date:

2007-10-05

Running Length:

1:55

MPAA Classification:

R (Profanity, Sexual Situations, Nudity, Violence)

Theatrical Aspect Ratio:

2.35:1

Cast:

Ben Stiller, Michelle Monaghan, Malin Akerman, Jerry Stiller, Carlos Mencia, Rob Corddry

Director:

Bobby Farrelly & Peter Farrelly

Screenplay:

Scot Armstrong and Leslie Dixon and Bobby Farrelly & Peter Farrelly & Kevin Barnett, based on the screenplay by Neil Simon

Cinematography:

Matthew F. Leonetti

U.S. Distributor:

Dreamworks

Subtitles:

none


Combine the Farrelly Brothers (Bobby and Peter) with Ben Stiller, a Cameron Diaz lookalike, and a copious dose of bodily fluids in a raunchy romantic comedy, and what do you get? Not There's Something About Mary II, that's for sure, although that was probably the producers' hope. The Heartbreak Kid, while not without its share of tiny, ephemeral pleasures, is a surprisingly flat and unamusing comedy. The film skews toward the dark side, but black humor is often the most difficult to successfully capture and in this case the Farrellys (with a small army of screenwriters, working from the framework of a 1972 script penned by Neil Simon) don't get it right. The occasional laughs provided aren't frequent enough or uproarious enough to warrant an investment of nearly two hours of a viewer's time.

One could consider this film to be a cautionary tale about making sure you know a potential spouse before marrying him/her. For Eddie Cantrow (Ben Stiller), this would have been invaluable advice. His heavenly relationship with pretty Lila (Malin Akerman, almost a dead ringer for a younger Cameron Diaz) turns into the honeymoon from hell. After succumbing to pressure applied by his father (Jerry Stiller) and best friend, Mac (Rob Corddry), Eddie decides to take the plunge with a woman he has only known for a short time. Life is beautiful until they arrive at the Mexican resort where they are spending their honeymoon. (Actually, things start turning sour as soon as we are subjected to Lila singing along to "Muskrat Love" - easily one of the most unpalatable songs of the last 40 years - but I digress…) While Lila remains in bed as the result of severe sunburn, Eddie hangs out with vacationer Miranda (Michelle Monaghan), who's there with her entire family. The two hit it off and soon Eddie is caught in the grip of lyrics from a sappy ballad: "It's sad to belong to someone else when the right one comes along."

The level of humor in The Heartbreak Kid isn't that different than that of There's Something About Mary. The jokes miss more often than they hit, but that's not the only issue. In 1998, the Farrelly's were on the cutting edge of raunchiness with their comedy. Since then, the bar has been raised more than once so what was once outrageous now seems tame. A lot of what happens in The Heartbreak Kid feels familiar - the acrobatic sex (better in The Tall Guy and Shoot 'Em Up), the overgrown pubic hair (Scary Movie) and all of the bodily functions. There's a "been there, done that" vibe to a lot of The Heartbreak Kid's gags and those looking for something fresh will be disappointed.

The other aspect of any romantic comedy is chemistry between the leads. There's Something About Mary had it; this movie does not, even though it gets two chances. Ben Stiller interacts better with his real-life father, Jerry, than with either of his leading ladies. Admittedly, Malin Akerman is supposed to be playing a nutcase, but we don't find that out until 30 minutes into the movie. Initially, she's supposed to be sweet and down-to-earth. She's both, but she and Stiller never click. Likewise, there's no spark between Ben and the film's real love interest, Michelle Monaghan. She's likeable in a girl-next-door sort of way, but the relationship between Eddie and Miranda is more in line with that of a brother and sister than two would-be lovers.

The Heartbreak Kid ventures into darkish territory, but that's not unusual for a Farrelly Brothers film. A secondary character called Uncle Tito (Carlos Mencia) is on the creepy side. Lila becomes a harridan. And Eddie, who is initially presented as a nice guy who finishes last, turns out to be a bit of a jerk. There are times when The Heartbreak Kid feels uncomfortable, but the Farrellys are unwilling to commit to taking this into coal-black War of the Roses territory. The attempt to fuse less palatable comedy elements with lighter, romantic ones doesn't work. In addition, they don't know when to quit. It's a rare comedy that can fill a two-hour block, and this one runs about 25% longer than it should. There's a bizarre segment that functions as comedic social commentary on America's immigration policy that, while arguably the most original aspect of the movie, doesn't seem to belong. After that, the story plods along aimlessly until it stumbles into a resolution defined by a cheap twist that is meant to be funny and ironic but isn't either. By the time the end credits roll, there's a sense that we should already be home watching TV or reading a book.





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