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The Heartbreak Kid

Nicola Mostyn on the Farrelly brothers’ latest film

Published on October 15th 2007.

The Heartbreak Kid

So far in the Farrelly brother’s movie-making career we’ve seen glorified stupidity (Dumb and Dumber), semen as hair gel (There’s Something About Mary), multiple personality disorders (Me, Myself and Irene), morbid obesity (Shallow Hal) and conjoined twins (Stuck On You), all unusual set-ups from which the brothers have cheerfully mined their peculiar brand of gross-out comedy. And for their latest trick this directorial duo have tackled….marrying the wrong woman. Hmmm.

Stiller plays his usual role of the droll, put-upon ordinary Joe with just a little discernable flatness.

Ben Stiller is Eddie Cantrow, a forty year old sports store owner who is single and getting continual grief off his hen-pecked best friend Mac (Rob Corddry), and foul-mouthed, frisky dad (the actor’s real father, Seinfeld’s Jerry Stiller), who reckon that he should just meet a girl, take the plunge and get married.

Seated at the kids table at his ex-fiancé’s wedding, he starts to think they might be right and when he meets the beautiful blonde Lila (Malin Akerman) a whirlwind affair leads to a marriage proposal and lo! Eddie’s hitched. But once the ring is on his finger he starts to think he may have been hasty and when he meets a funny, sports loving Miranda on his honeymoon she seems a much more likely contender for his perfect woman…

This film’s a remake of a 1972 original starring Cybill Shepherd, and it would be worth renting this version to see whether director Elaine May managed to pull off the premise of a man who woos another woman on his honeymoon, without having you lose sympathy for just about everyone. Alas, the Farrellys’ don’t manage it.

The film begins amiably enough with some ambling banter between Eddie and his Dad, who, with his vivid orange toupee, puts me in mind of a randy orang-utan. Stiller plays his usual role of the droll, put-upon ordinary Joe with just a little discernable flatness.

Alas, any fondness the film might have built up for Eddie begins to ebb away around the time Lila’s fat mother waddles up to him at the end of the wedding ceremony and proclaims that her daughter is wearing the very same dress she wore on her big day, at which Eddie blanches. In the past, the Farrellys’ have been experts at judging the tone of such moments – mixing excruciation with humour and deriving a guilty, sniggering laugh – but this is a cheap shot and sets Eddie up as a superficial arsehole.

It isn’t even that his growing antipathy towards his new wife is unjustified – lord no, she’s as annoying as a poke in the eye with a knitting needle, and there’s a great scene as they drive to their honeymoon which begins with her singing all the words to Eddie’s favourite songs: Bowie (good), and graduates to her delivering a word-perfect rendition of the Spice Girl’s ‘Wannabe’ plus actions (grounds for divorce).

And so the seven year itch becomes the seven hour itch and everything Lila does thereon just rams home the point that she’s not right for Eddie, from her unusual piercings to her kinky bedroom habits to her deviated septum and her mountain of debts. In short, she’s a loon. Malik Akerman has a touch of Cameron Diaz about her, but she does her job too thoroughly and we begin to get as tired of her as Eddie is, except that, because she isn’t horrible and is only being her (admittedly appalling) self, you also have zero sympathy for Eddie as he lies to and manipulates his new bride in order to spend more time with the down to earth, beautiful Miranda (played with warmth by Michelle Monaghan).

Perhaps the clue to this film lies in the title, because what begins as a decent-guy-in-sticky-situation scenario seems to turn into something darker and more misogynistic, which might have been interesting had it been explored more thoroughly. Ultimately, between its flip-flopping characterisation and depressing denouement, The Heartbreak Kid feels like an uncomfortable splicing of this darker story and a farcical romcom, with some crude but unfunny scenes to appease the gross-out fans but only one moment towards the end of the film – involving a jellyfish – which has the sort of joyfully daft, tasteless humour-with-heart which made There’s Something About Mary such a hit.

The Heartbreak Kid (15) is on general release

Rating: 6/10

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