Judge Patrick Bromley couldn't get that damn Huey Lewis song out of his head for a week.
Whatever happens to the boys, one thing is certain. Nothing will ever come between them.
There's Something About Mary changed the landscape of American comedy, turning the Farrelly brothers into a brand name and creating a new genre of "Outrageous Comedy." Suddenly, every comedy released was "outrageous"—meaning it involved a great deal of gross-out bathroom or bodily function humor and attempts at non-PC humor. Films like Say It Isn't So, Outside Providence, and Osmosis Jones not only slavishly imitated the formula made popular by the Farrellys, but attempted to get mileage out of their participation as well; the marketing campaigns of the films were built around the Brothers, slathering their names all over the advertising. The studios, coupled with the Brothers' occasional lapses in judgment in the quality control department, eventually force-fed the brand name until audiences became burnt out on the predictability of this marketing-invented genre. Even the Brothers' latest, Stuck On You, is labeled an "outrageous" comedy in the film's ads, despite the fact that it is far from outrageous; it seems the Farrellys have become prisoners of their own names.
Facts of the Case
Bob and Walt Tenor are about as close as two brothers can be—they're conjoined ("We're not Siamese, we're American") twins. While Bob (Matt Damon, Good Will Hunting, The Bourne Identity) is content running the brothers' burger joint (Quickie Burger, where the burgers are guaranteed cooked and served in three minutes or less—isn't there a health concern in there somewhere?) on Martha's Vineyard, Walt (Greg Kinnear, Nurse Betty, Auto Focus) has dreams of launching an acting career out in Hollywood. Once the brothers move out to California, Walt gets a gig on a network TV series opposite Cher (Moonstruck, Mermaids), and Bob finally has the chance to meet his long-time pen pal, May (Wenn Yann Shih, Timecop: The Berlin Decision). When the pressures of keeping their particular affliction a secret (Walt for his series, Bob for his budding romance with May) begin to take their toll on the brothers, they have to come to terms with the reality that it may be time for a separation.
Admittedly, hardly anything in the above plot summary sounds very funny—except, of course, for Timecop: The Berlin Decision. That's because Stuck On You isn't funny, at least not riotously so. What it is is sweet, and good-natured, and endlessly pleasant—which, when you think about it, can be harder to pull off than two hours worth of fart jokes.
Because many so many us are waiting for the Farrelly Brothers to once again conjure up the mad genius of There's Something About Mary, it becomes easy to dismiss a film like Stuck On You as a disappointment. It's not as comedically inspired, it doesn't have the same shock value, and it doesn't take the same kinds of chances. Comparing it to the filmmakers' previous films, however, is doing it a disservice. The Farrellys aren't trying to repeat themselves here—they're trying something different, and (as far as I'm concerned) succeeding at it. The film demonstrates a degree of growth from the writing/directing team, in that it manages to work without working overtime to shock our sensibilities.
It seems that Peter and Bobby's new M.O. is taking a character with a mental or physical affliction—multiple personality disorder (Me, Myself, and Irene), obesity (Shallow Hal), and now conjoined twins—and treating the potentially offensive subject matter with at least some sensitivity (in ascending order, to the point where this latest film hardly even touches the PC line). Stuck On You, whether it realizes it or not, exhausts the "conjoined twin" jokes fairly quickly; there are only so many sight gags we can see with two men joined together. Unfortunately, it seems that no one was able to conceive of any physical comedy bits beyond sports, so we get to see the brothers play baseball, and football, and tennis, and golf. We see them slow dance, and (in one particularly inspired sequence) use one another to their advantage in a barroom brawl. Though each of these gags is impressively choreographed, there just isn't much to them—okay, so they're connected…they do things a little differently…now what?
What's left is the script and the performances and, luckily for the Farrellys, both are the best they've worked with since Mary. Since the sight gags are relatively unsuccessful and generally kept to a minimum, the script by the Farrellys, with two other writers credited additionally for "story," has to carry the majority of the humor. Though essentially just a fish-out-of-water story (once the conjoined twin jokes run out of steam, which is fairly quickly), the script is filled with funny throwaway lines and sly jabs at life in Hollywood—not exactly original, I know, but funny is funny. I'm referring not so much to the obvious scenes of Cher, playing herself as a big ol' bitch (why is it that if you're willing to play yourself unflatteringly, you are automatically labeled a "good sport?"), but rather to the quieter fringe jokes about Robert Evans ("He sure banged 'em, didn't he?") or the gag that everyone in town is writing a screenplay—even the motel desk clerk. There are also some good digs at small-town community theater, as Walt performs in a one man show about Truman Capote or in "Bonnie and Clyde: The Musical"—a cute bit that overstays its welcome that close to the end of the film (and, incidentally, Meryl Streep actually is a good sport). It would have been ideal for the closing credits.
One of the Farrellys' strengths is their casting—time and again, they choose to eschew typical comedy casting, instead reaching out to typically respected dramatic actors taking a chance in this genre. From Jeff Daniels to Matt Dillon to Renee Zellweger to Gwyneth Paltrow, the Brothers have drawn solid comedic performances from traditionally straight actors; the trend continues with the casting of Damon and Kinnear in Stuck On You. Damon is a relative newcomer to the comedic genre, and though Kinnear has done a number of comedies he hasn't really appeared in anything this broad (except maybe the great Mystery Men). They do here what any respectable comedic actor should do—they play it straight. By simply creating real characters inside a humorous situation (not necessarily specific to their anatomical anomaly), they allow laughs to come to them. By doing so, they turn Stuck On You into more of a human comedy—albeit a conjoined human comedy—than the Farrellys' previous films.
Eva Mendes (Training Day, Once Upon a Time in Mexico) steals the movie. In a film filled with solid performances and funny characters, she flat out walks away with it. Her performance as the boys' neighbor/aspiring actress/Walt's girlfriend April (Bob's girlfriend is named May—not one of the film's more inspired touches) is the best combination of sexy/funny since old Goldie Hawn. Watch her in just about any scene, even when she's not speaking. She never pushes it, never plays the obvious "bimbo" card—she's just great to watch (for a number of reasons). Someone give her a comedic lead already.
Fox's DVD of the film looks and sounds quite acceptable. The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, enhanced for 16x9 viewing; a full screen version is also available, but the Farrellys have placed their side-by-side heroes in the foreground so often that any cropping would diminish the impact of a number of gags. Though the image is slightly dark, the colors look great and the transfer is free from any dirt or grain. The 5.1 Dolby audio track is nicely balanced, striking an even chord between the dialogue, music, and sound effects. The overall quality of the film's presentation is extremely solid.
Though there's not exactly an abundance of extras on the disc, I found myself walking away extremely satisfied with the content of the existing extras—I wasn't wanting for more. Some deleted and extended scenes were best left out of the film for pacing reasons, as it's already too long. Some of these cut scenes contain slightly racier material than that which is found in the film, raising the question as to whether or not the sequences were cut in the interest of securing a PG-13 rating (the Farrellys confess on their commentary that the movie was originally slapped with an "R"). A blooper reel is unnecessarily included as well, demonstrating that people making mistakes is often much less funny than the actual material they are messing up. There is also a set of short featurettes; the first, "It's Funny," is really just a brief spot on the comedy of the Farrelly brothers. It contains interviews taken not just from the stars of Stuck On You, but from each of their previous Fox films as well. Though seemingly nothing more than a fluff piece, the short actually provides an excellent glimpse into what makes the Farrellys such a successful comedic team, and demonstrates the combination of seriousness and relaxation with which they approach their material (writing comedy, according to the Brothers, should be hard work; shooting it should be fun). The second segment, "Stuck Together," is a basic behind-the-scenes featurette, detailing the film's production history, casting, and shooting. There is enough background information and on-set footage of both the Farrellys and the film's stars (caught between takes) to make a viewing of the piece worthwhile. The last featurette, "Making it Stick," examines the special effects and makeup prosthetics involved in convincingly attaching Damon and Kinnear; what seems like a relatively simple effect was actually an extremely difficult and time-consuming process. The three featurettes together combine to create about as comprehensive an examination as one could want for a comedy such as this, without delving into too much minutiae.
Then there's the commentary track from the Farrellys. The Brothers have become somewhat notorious for their commentaries, in which they spend most of their time pointing out the names of all of their family and friends appearing as extras and bit players on screen—a practice which, while undoubtedly thrilling for said friends and family, can bore the rest of us comatose. At this point, the Farrellys are either unaware of how tedious this habit is, or they know it and just don't give a damn, because their track for Stuck On You delivers more of the same. They do tend to speak more here than on previous commentaries—there used to just be gaps when they weren't naming names—and some of that "filler" actually proves to be worthwhile. As annoying as the track is at times, it does showcase a clear sense of community in the Farrellys' world (which also creeps its way into their films), but it can be pretty rough going at times.
Also featured on the disc are a couple of trailers, as well as a new feature on Fox DVD—something called "Inside Look." It appears on the main menu, and basically offers quick looks at some of the studio's current and upcoming projects (in this case Dodgeball, Alien vs. Predator, Man on Fire, and The Day After Tomorrow).
Though at times unfocused and in need of some editing, Stuck On You is a different kind of comedy for the Farrelly Brothers—while I never really busted out laughing, I smiled most of the way through. Is it hilarious? No. Cute? Definitely—and I'd consider that a job well done.
The only guilty party is 20th Century Fox, mis-marketing and incorrectly labeling the film in an attempt to cash in on the Farrellys' previous successes. Just let the film be what it is, guys. All other parties are found Not Guilty and are free to go. Court is adjoined.
Get it? Adjoined? Eh? Eh?
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Scales of Justice
• Commentary by Peter and Bobby Farrelly
Review content copyright © 2004 Patrick Bromley; Site design and review layout copyright © 2014 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.