The Heartbreak Kid

2007, Movie, R, 115 mins


No longer top dogs in the Hollywood pound when it comes to blending frat boy yucks and icks with feel-good feelings – that honor now goes to Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen – the Farrelly Brothers redo Neil Simon and Elaine May’s perennially popular 1972 comedy THE HEARTBREAK KID. The results feel slack – sometimes funny, but slack.

Forty-years-old and still too scared to get married, San Francisco sports emporium owner Eddie Cantrow (Ben Stiller) finally screws up his courage and pops the question to a woman he really doesn't know very well. Lila (Malin Akerman), a pretty young environmental researcher whom he met while attempting to foil her mugger one afternoon, seems nice enough, though Eddie doesn't think she has a very good sense of humor. Six weeks into their courtship, Lila tells him that her company is threatening to ship her of to Copenhagen because she’s not tied down by a husband or kids, so rather than lose her, Eddie decides to take the advice of aging horndog father, Doc (Stiller’s real-life dad, Jerry Stiller), and his henpecked best friend, Mac (Rob Corddry), and asks Lila to marry him, even though they haven't even had sex yet. Lila says yes. On the drive down to Cabo Saint Lucas where they’ll spending their honeymoon, Eddie realizes Lila isn’t exactly the sweet, demure woman he first thought: She sings inanely to every song on the radio, can’t add simple sums, insists Eddie hold her hand as she shovels platefuls of food into her mouth, and when Lila suggests they pull into a motel for an early wedding night, Eddie makes the painful discovery that Lila is a freak in bed. Just days into their honeymoon, it’s become perfectly clear that far from being his dream girl, Lila is a complete nightmare. Lila doesn’t even have a real job – her post as an “environmental researcher” is just an unpaid volunteer position – and owes "some people" $26,000 because she used to be a cokehead. Even worse, Lila insists she’s always right, even when it comes to using mineral oil on her skin to get a “savage” Cabo tan instead of the sunblock Eddie recommends, and winds up spending the next few days alone in the honeymoon suite covered in aloe and blisters. During this welcome respite, Eddie meets Miranda (Michelle Monaghan), a college lacrosse coach from Oxford, Miss., who’s in Cabo who's coming off a breakup and is just about perfect in every way. She’s smart, quick with a joke and up for anything, and her family is delightful. Eddie suddenly realizes that if he lets Miranda slips through his fingers, he'll be making the second biggest mistake in his life.

The Farrellys and a trio of screenwriters have thankfully removed the Jewish-Gentile dynamic that was so central to the triangle at the heart of Simon’s screenplay; they even go so far as to change the Heartbreak Kid’s name from “Lenny” to the less Semitic sounding “Eddie.” And while the film is certainly better for the absence of tired Jewish stereotypes, Lila’s character has been reduced to that old, misogynistic observation about how women "let themselves go" after landing themselves a husband. Able to fool her husband during their whirlwind courtship only to reveal herself to be a dumb, temperamental and supremely selfish psycho, Lila has multiple personalities but only one dimension, and her psychological damage only detracts from Eddie’s own character flaws: an inability to see women for who they really are and a natural dishonesty. Nevertheless, there are some funny bits, but for a film that feels like a scene-by-scene riposte to THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY right down to a nasty crotch shot, there's just not enough of what we've come to expect from the Farrellys: gut-busting laughs, jaw-dropping gross-outs and heart-tugging sincerity. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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