Judge Ben Saylor couldn't find the heart anywhere in the Farrelly Bros.' latest film.
Our review of The Heartbreak Kid (Blu-Ray), published January 8th, 2009, is also available.
…So does this movie.
Facts of the Case
Confirmed bachelor Eddie Cantrow (Ben Stiller, Meet the Parents) always has a reason (or three) not to get married. But when he meets a sweet environmental researcher named Lila (Malin Akerman, The Brothers Solomon), he decides he has found Miss Right and marries her after a six-week courtship. However, during their Cabo honeymoon, some unsettling aspects of Lila's personality begin to surface, right at the same time Eddie meets Miranda (Michelle Monaghan, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang), a bright, charming woman who Eddie hits it off with immediately and quickly begins to fall for. Eddie must then work out the best way to tell Lila it's over—as well as tell Miranda the truth about why he's in Cabo.
The premise of The Heartbreak Kid, a remake of a 1972 Elaine May film, seems simple enough on paper, but the execution here leaves a lot to be desired. In this film, Peter and Bobby Farrelly (Dumb and Dumber, There's Something About Mary) repeatedly take the easy way out. Rather than have Lila be like a real person with actual emotions that the audience could respond to (and also make Eddie's conflict over whether to leave her more interesting), she is made into a complete psycho whose bizarre qualities only manifest themselves after marriage. Naturally, we as an audience want Eddie to wind up with Miranda; after all, Miranda would never urinate on him (more on that later). The Farrellys (and the three other screenwriters who had a hand in this film) stack the deck so much in favor of Eddie and so much against Lila that the latter doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell of gaining any sympathy from the audience. Some humorous moments are devised from Eddie's situation (the lunch scene near the end where Eddie melts down on a mariachi band), but overall, the Farrellys never exploit this situation like they could have.
The Farrellys also come up short when it comes to the other characters. Eddie's commitment issues are nothing that we haven't seen a bajillion times before in other, better movies, and we really don't learn anything else about him. Ditto Miranda, who is pretty and down-to-earth, so she must be a good person, right? I guess so, because the Farrellys sure don't let us in on anything else about her. I don't think we even learn her last name. I guess the Farrellys figured we didn't need to know any more since they went to so much trouble to make Lila undesirable that anyone other than her would look fine in comparison.
In one of this DVD's special features, one of the Farrellys (I can't remember which) admits to having absolutely no knowledge of lenses or camera angles. This is apparent in every frame of The Heartbreak Kid, which is one of the most bland-looking studio films I've seen in a long time. Cinematographer Matthew Leonetti keeps everything white and bright; Ben Stiller's face looks just like the white sand of the Cabo beach. All the shot compositions are dull. I'm not saying that every director needs to have extensive technical knowledge of the mechanics of making a movie or that this movie needed Children of Menesque tracking shots; it's just surprising (and more than a little depressing) that filmmakers who have been in the business as long as the Farrellys don't seem to have an interest in giving their films a distinctive look.
Worst of all, the movie just isn't that funny. Here again the Farrellys reveal their lack of fresh ideas (I'm thinking especially of Carlos Mencia's Mexican stereotype). Ultimately, they resort to gross-out humor like the urination scene (which begins with an extremely squirm-inducing crotch-shot) mentioned earlier. I'm no prude, but stuff like that does not make me laugh.
Dreamworks' DVD presentation of The Heartbreak Kid is very good from a technical standpoint; Matthew Leonetti's ugly, overly bright cinematography is clear as day on this transfer, and the endless parade of pop songs all come across loud and clear. In the extras department, Dreamworks has stuffed this disc with a collection of pointless extras. First up is "The Farrelly Bros. in the French Tradition," which at 16 minutes is by far the longest extra. Most of this focuses on the Farrellys in general: their early life, how they came to be filmmakers, etc. This one wasn't terrible, but at the same time I doubt I'll ever watch it again. Next up is "Ben & Jerry," a five-minute featurette about how much Ben and Jerry Stiller love working together. (What a surprise!) Following that, we get "Heartbreak Halloween," which concerns the crew of the film donning Halloween costumes on set and having a costume contest. Then there's "The Egg Toss," which is about the egg tossing competitions the cast and crew had throughout the shoot. The people interviewed for this say these contests were a lot of fun; you'll have to take their word for it, because it sure isn't fun to watch a featurette about them. There is also a supremely unfunny gag reel and a short collection of deleted scenes, as well as some trailers. In addition, there is one Easter egg about a practical joke Peter Farrelly pulled on his father. There is also a commentary track with the Farrellys, which actually isn't that bad. The brothers keep up a steady, reasonably interesting dialogue over the course of the film, although they have a tendency to identify every extra they know or won their role in the film in an auction.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Just about all I can say in defense of The Heartbreak Kid is that despite the fact that their characters are poorly written, Ben Stiller, Michelle Monaghan and Malin Akerman still give decent performances. Eddie is a typical Stiller character; high-strung, neurotic, prone to fits of rage. Again, while Miranda is given almost no depth, Monaghan is vivacious and winning enough to carry the day. Finally, Akerman proves herself to be very deft comedically, and she deserves praise for taking everything that is dumped on her character. Again, most of the movie is not that funny, but these actors (particularly Stiller) do have their moments.
Despite a solid cast and agreeable scenery, the Farrelly Bros' The Heartbreak Kid is a shallow, largely unfunny film which is done few favors by Dreamworks' subpar DVD special features.
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Scales of Justice
• Feature commentary with the Farrelly Bros.
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