Issue October 9, 2007

Film Review: The Heartbreak Kid

The Heartbreak Kid      2 Stars
Starring Ben Stiller, Michelle Monaghan, Malin Akerman, Carlos Mencia and Robert Corddry. Directed by Peter and Bobby Farrelly. Released by Paramount Pictures. Rated R; 1:56.

“The Heartbreak Kid” is as cynical in its views toward marriage as it is in its attempt to cash in on the Farrelly brothers’ gross-out comedy legacy. Following the unforced charm and old-school romanticism of “Fever Pitch” (2005), the Farrellys revisit the raunchy vibe of their biggest hit, “There’s Something About Mary.”

    The gags feel secondhand, the alternating tones of vulgar and sweet feel over-calculated, and the movie’s view of women is limited to two types: raving psychos and cheery ciphers. Ben Stiller, who still gets some mileage out of the hapless loser role, suffers innumerable indignities as Eddie after hastily marrying Lila (Malin Akerman of “Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle”).

    It turns out Lila is in massive debt from a coke habit that has left her with a deviated septum. Her nose tends to leak whatever she’s drinking or eating. Eddie doesn’t discover this about Lila until their honeymoon in Cabo. But that’s just the beginning. Lila has unconventional habits in bed (“What’s the missionary position?” she asks Eddie). This blonde bombshell is every guy’s worst nightmare.

    Enter Mary, err, I mean Miranda (Michelle Monaghan, excellent in “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”), a Mississippi lacrosse coach who is vacationing at the resort with her extended family. She’s Eddie’s true dream girl. But what to do with the wife? Eddie’s lies escalate into a farcical climax involving aquatic life and female genitals.

    The playful skewering of the male ego in “Something About Mary” is replaced by the filmmakers’ cruel regard for the film’s two lead characters. The Farrellys punctuate the conventional finale with a jaded twist that subverts the romantic comedy formula. “The Heartbreak Kid” is a strange concoction: a shameless retread of the filmmakers’ most lucrative movies chased with a stinging self-critique.