Something has happened to the Farrelly Brothers since 2005’s Fever Pitch, and that something is named Judd Apatow. While the Farrelly’s laid the groundwork for the contemporary raunch-fest with a heart, Apatow has brought it full circle with the likes of The 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up. The Heartbreak Kid arrives with a bit of an uphill battle in its foresight, and while the first half is uproarious and promising, the whole thing just doesn’t gel. There are laughs to be had, but you’ll be scratching your head once the screenplay flies completely off the rails into a ditch of sitcom clichés and painfully obvious, dragged-out humor.
Ben Stiller stars as Eddie Cantrow, a sports emporium owner who just crossed into his 40’s. He seems happy single, but friends and family alike are strong-arming him to finally find the love of his life and take the plunge. That opportunity arises quickly enough as Eddie meets Lila (Akerman) after trying to stop a purse-snatcher who has made off with her belongings. There is an immediate attraction and the two begin to date. Eddie decides she’s the one, and the two head off to Cabo for their honeymoon. That’s where the real Lila emerges: she’s a horrible singer, enjoys freakish behavior in the sack, and won’t listen to a thing that Eddie suggests. After Lila gets horrifically sunburned, Eddie finds himself hanging out with Miranda (Monaghan), a down-home girl from Mississippi. From here it’s truly Stiller territory: he gets humiliated and the contrivances mount.
The screenplay, by the Farrelly’s as well as Scot Armstrong, Leslie Dixon, and Kevin Barnett, keeps the laughs coming at a stellar pace while the setting is the island. The raunchy humor is just realistic enough to be believable, the dialogue is palatable, and the characters are engaging. Once everyone leaves Cabo and the amends must be made, however, the film takes a U-turn for the worse. How could anyone who penned the first hour of this film think this was the place to take the story? That the now-standard post-credits gag involves bestiality is the perfect indicator for how far it falls.
Ben Stiller is, well, Ben Stiller. Based on box office gross alone, the majority of the civilized world knows his act inside and out. As Eddie he plays the usual victim quite well, but the character deteriorates to what can only be considered a creep in the film’s second half. Why go from spot-on comic timing to over-the-top sitcom acting? Considering he’s supposed to be the hero, none of this is a good thing. That goes double for the final sequence, which isn’t half as funny as the writers intended but rather kind of sad. The supporting work by Akerman and the underrated Monaghan is quite good. Akerman, who at first seemed to be aping Cameron Diaz to perfection, creates a memorable closet-psycho-female who gets generous laughs as stories of her past unfold. Monaghan is believable as the heart-sweeping Southerner and has good chemistry with Stiller.
Yet the whole thing leaves a bit of a sour taste. Like most of the Farrelly’s features, it runs at least twenty minutes too long and the story, for as promising as it started, never really gets anywhere. The Farrelly Brothers are talented guys who know how to make us laugh at the facts of life, but here they are trying harder than ever to one-up themselves with gross-out gags and the heart they have brought in past films. The mixture proves volatile, and ultimately unsatisfying.
Length: 115 Minutes
Rating: R for strong sexual content, crude humor and language.
Theatrical Release: October 5, 2007
Directed by: Bobby Farrelly & Peter Farrelly.
Written by: Scot Armstrong & Leslie Dixon & Bobby Farrelly & Peter Farrelly & Kevin Barnett.
Cast: Ben Stiller, Michelle Monaghan, Jerry Stiller, Malin Akerman, Carlos Mencia, Rob Corddry