The Heartbreak Kid

October 10, 2007

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The output of the prolific Farrelly brothers is a catalogue of hit and miss. Yes, Dumb & Dumber and There’s Something About Mary are classics of contemporary comedy, but are the best days of the ‘gross-out’ genre behind us? It’s really a moot point, because it’s clear from The Heartbreak Kid that these days the gruesome twosome are less about sperm-based hair gel and more about catching up with the sophisticated brand of Stateside funny stuff tickling our sides in recent months. That’s not to say crudity is now at the back of the bus, but rather in the passenger seat trying desperately to grab the wheel… The story is a simple yet bountiful concept, and actually has a mild social message under its dirty bed sheets. Oooohhh. Reuniting with the director/writer/producer/whatever pair, this yarn sees Ben Stiller at 40 (looking terrifyingly grey indeed), out of luck and out of love. After facing humiliation at the wedding of his former fiancée and her new squeeze, his ’happily’ married brother and sickeningly sexually-driven father (played by his ACTUAL FATHER. Errrr!) encourage him to grab life by the balls and settle down. Desperation and frustration lead Ed (Stiller) into a hasty marriage with the seemingly perfect Lila. She turns out to be the love of his life and they have a wonderful honeymoon in Mexico and die by each other’s side many years later.

But seriously, Ed quickly sees the dark side to his dream woman, and Mexico proves an amusing choice of location for some international stereotype humour. The slow release of Lila’s flaws is paced well enough for us to feel Ed’s agonizing realisation and regret of his awful decision, and while many of the gags in the set-up are simply re-hashed from the Farrelly’s bank of bad taste, there are enough to stir a few laughs or at the very least, groans. After several disturbing revelations and a nasty sunburn, Ed meets Miranda (the beautifully enigmatic Michelle Monaghan), and OH NO! Maybe she’s the one…

The rest of the film is a feast of irony and farce as Ed struggles horribly to juggle the two relationships and avoid the wrath of Miranda’s hilarious redneck family. It’s typical Farrelly-lite, but Stiller thoroughly enjoys himself and it’s nice to see he’s still a bubbly child at heart. His likeable leading ladies are superbly cast, a factor which may well be the film’s saviour from turkey territory- as Lila, Malin Akerman throws the loony switch with genuine gusto and Monaghan literally lights up the screen.

Attempts at ’kooky’ naturalism in the Knocked Up/Sideways vein are largely lost on an audience that will no doubt have come to see dogs chomping on testicles and other such bodily unpleasantness, but even when the cringe-inducing stuff does come out, there’s often the feeling that they’ve tried too hard. The nudity is an unnecessary, patronising reassurance that we’re watching immaturity BUT IT AIN’T FOR KIDS, the misunderstanding involving an ice-pick murder is a potential gem that goes to waste, and the whole business takes it time winding down. But aside from this there are some nice touches (Ed’s idea of ’respecting Miranda’s privacy’ and the obvious-but-funny closing gag are highlights) and though similar to Me, Myself & Irene on coarse comedy terms, it’s a far less messy production in general.

I’m sure even the Farrellys themselves would agree that this isn’t their best, nor will it linger long in the memory, but for the most part it’s a charming watch with the trademark soft centre and crass, crunchy coating.

THE CRUNCH

2.5 / 5  cold feet

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