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Our review of The Heartbreak Kid, published December 24th, 2007, is also available.
After the content they delivered in the '90s, it's hard to imagine the Farelly brothers coming off as tired old directors a decade later. With The Heartbreak Kid, though, it's quite clear that they no longer have a grip on the genre that they helped to reinvent. Between the uninspired direction and a nearly visible power struggle between star, original script, and directorial team, this film is a painful mess.
Facts of the Case
We begin with Eddie (Ben Stiller, Tropic Thunder, a sporting goods store owner and unhappy bachelor. He has a whirlwind romance with the beautiful but quirky Lila (Malin Akerman, 27 Dresses) and marries her before really getting to know her. After the wedding, she transforms into a bit of a monster, and he is left regretting his rush on his Mexican honeymoon. There, he meets Miranda (Michelle Monaghan, Eagle Eye), who he immediately recognizes as the girl of his dreams. Of course, instead of dealing with this out in the open, he deceives Lila that he has met another woman, and deceives Miranda that he is married—to disastrous results.
In the late '90s, the Farelly brothers redefined the romantic comedy for a new generation with There's Something About Mary. At the time, it was completely shocking and totally hilarious, as crude as a college frat comedy but with a genuine dose of heart as well. They have been trying to match that success ever since, as have a number of other directors. It's hard to capture that perfect balance of potty and pathos.
Recently, however, that balance has been consistently acheived by another man, whose collective attempts have polished the genre that the Farelly brothers gave birth to a decade ago. Judd Apatow and friends have delivered The 40 Year old Virgin, Knocked Up, and Forgetting Sarah Marshall, films that deliver more than the Farellys ever did themselves. They demonstrate the same balance of dirt and heart, but where they continue to entertain, the newest effort of the Farelly brothers simply falls flat.
Indeed, The Heartbreak Kid makes a fascinating companion piece to Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Both center around a honeymoon resort, and a man who finds true love while simultaneously trying to escape an existing lover. Both feature men who are disillusioned by love, men who have no remaining dignity. Unfortunately, The Heartbreak Kid is missing a key part of the formula. There's not much to like about Eddie. He starts out as a pathetic loser, which is par for the course, but instead of blossoming into a likeable guy who deserves a second chance, he ends up being a pretty much complete prick. By the end, his journey has descended so far into madness and poor decision-making that we don't actually want him to succeed.
The screenplay makes the same kind of journey. Lila's transformation from dreamboat to monster is so complete and sudden that it isn't even that funny—it's simply bizarre. The second half of the movie also bursts into kitchen-sink mode, as every character, situation, and gag are tossed haphazardly onto the screen. The worst offender is Carlos Mencia, who's "uncle Tito" character makes no sense and has no place in the screenplay. I suspect these problems may be due to a glut of creative talent on the project. A screenplay from Neil Simon is adapted by the Farelly Brothers, who then cast Ben Stiller, who is also noted as a creative talent. When all of this creativity comes together, we don't get movie magic. Instead, we just get a colorful mess.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Speaking of color, the Blu-ray transfer is reasonably impressive. Most of the film takes place in Mexico, and the cinematography leans on the garish location shooting. The colors and contrast look great in high definition, just as you would expect from a recent film. There's nothing that makes it a reference quality transfer, but it is a clear step up from what DVD can deliver. The audio is also fine, though ultimately forgettable. I never had a hard time hearing the dialogue in the Dolby HD track, and the inexplicably music choices (David Bowie?) come through just fine. It's a comedy, of course, so an earsplitting cacophany from all channels is hardly expected.
It seems most of the special features here have been ported over from the original DVD, some in standard definition, and some in high def. From the commentary and featurettes, it seems like they were having a blast. Too bad the fun never reaches the screen. The list of actual features is the same as the DVD, so that's no reason to upgrade. For the record, we get a commentary, a slew of little featurettes, deleted scenes and a gag reel.
If you have yet to catch the Farellys' latest shock comedy, you would be much better served looking elsewhere. For fans of the film, there is little reason to upgrade, aside from marginally better picture quality. Sadly, though, this is a film that definitely doesn't live up to its considerable expectations going in. The Heartbreak Kid is not the return to form we've been waiting for from this pair of crazy brothers.
The Heartbreak Kid is guilty of making me squirm and not making me
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