Review: `Heartbreak Kid’ Lacks Laughs

October 4, 2007 at 7:09 pm Leave a comment

“The Heartbreak Kid” is funny enough compared to other recent movies by the Farrelly brothers, whose last four or five flicks have delivered only lackluster laughs. Yet Peter and Bobby Farrelly’s take on the 1972 Neil Simon-Elaine May original is not nearly as funny as you’d like for a movie that reunites them with “There’s Something About Mary” star Ben Stiller in another gross-out romance.

With five credited screenwriters, the Farrellys among them, and source material that includes a sharp script based on the great comic author Bruce Jay Friedman’s short story, you just feel as though “The Heartbreak Kid” should be packed with guffaws.

From the mundane opening set-up between Stiller and his dad, Jerry Stiller, the movie starts drowsily and finds its humor only in occasional fits as the younger man discovers he’s married badly then meets his dream woman on his honeymoon.

Playing a fictional father and son, the Stillers basically stand around on a San Francisco street jabbering about why the kid remains single and why, if he’s can’t find a bride, he at least doesn’t take advantage of bachelorhood by playing the field.

It’s an oddly talky and inanimate moment for the Farrellys, and the idle tone lingers through much of the movie.

Stiller’s Eddie Cantrow is a 40-year-old stuck at the “singles table” at his former girlfriend’s wedding the other singles turning out to be a bunch of kids who grill him about why he’s there alone. (The exchange sets up an unlikely coincidental meeting later that the filmmakers use to push the story forward; it amounts to lazy storytelling.)

Eddie then meets the beautiful, vivacious Lila (Malin Akerman), who seems too good to be true as they begin a whirlwind romance.

Of course, she is too good to be true. After marrying Lila on a whim and heading south for a honeymoon in Mexico, Eddie almost immediately learns they’re a mismatch.

She’s into rough, contortionist sex, she’s disgustingly unabashed in the bathroom, she sings along perkily to grating pop songs, she’s got a deviated septum that leads to a string of redundant nasal gags.

Granted, Eddie and Lila only knew each other for six weeks before marrying, but it’s far too convenient that he never gets a whiff of their glaring incompatibility. The way the Farrellys gloss over Eddie and Lila’s courtship also is lazy storytelling.

At the Mexican resort, Eddie encounters the homespun angel Miranda (Michelle Monaghan), who’s there with her family to celebrate an aunt and uncle’s renewal of wedding vows.

Eddie and Miranda connect, and he realizes in a day or two that she’s the woman for him. (More lazy storytelling? You be the judge.)

The Farrellys raunch up the May-Simon story and dispense with the original’s Jewish-goyim clash that had honeymooning Charles Grodin falling for WASP-ish Cybill Shepherd. That angle might have seemed quaint and dated today.

There are a few genuinely amusing sight gags, though nothing nearly as memorable as Cameron Diaz’s hair-gel moment in “There’s Something About Mary.”

Akerman’s Lila often is eerily reminiscent of Diaz’s Mary, down to the sweet, slightly sibilant voice and frisky demeanor.

Monaghan’s an absolute sweetheart, but she has the easier task, since her character’s written that way. Akerman steals the show by making Lila both endearing and irritating at the same time.

Carlos Mencia as a lovably coarse resort employee and Rob Corddry as Eddie’s married buddy liven up a few scenes.

It’s harder to sympathize with Stiller here than it was in “There’s Something About Mary.” Stiller’s a stiff if he doesn’t have good dialogue, and he’s often boring in “The Heartbreak Kid.” To top it off, his character’s more of a jerk than usual, so it’s hard to care whether or not he ends up with the right woman.

In fact, there’s far more empathy to be had with both Miranda and Lila than the man who tries to juggle a honeymoon with the two of them.

The movie’s contrived ending also is a letdown, but there’s a coda offering a cute cameo that “Desperate Housewives” fans especially will enjoy.

“The Heartbreak Kid,” a DreamWorks-Paramount release, is rated R for strong sexual content, crude humor, language, and a scene of drug use involving a minor. Running time: 115 minutes. Two stars out of four.



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