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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

The Heartbreak Kid (review)

Honeymoon in Hell

My mother always said, If you don’t have anything nice to say about someone, don’t say anything at all. I’ve always been more of a Dorothy Parker Alice Roosevelt Longworth bent, though: If you don’t have anything nice to say about someone, come and sit next to me. In the spirit of heeding my mother, however, I shall admit that I have found something nice to say about my mortal enemies the Farrelly Brothers, potty-mouthed harbingers of the doom of what might once have been called American culture. It is this:
They don’t rest on their laurels.

Bobby and Peter Farrelly (Fever Pitch, Shallow Hal) may have almost singleghandedly reduced the multiplex to a cesspool of explosive defecation and below-the-belt indignity, but they’re not content to stop there. They could get away with just flogging the same horse of humiliation with every single damn one of their revolting movies, but no! They strive for newer and deeper depths of disgust.

And such they have achieved here, with their latest, The Heartbreak Kid, which is based on the 1972 movie — and Neil Simon’s 1972 screenplay — much in the same way that a breakfast of Pop Tarts and Mountain Dew is based on a petit dejeuner of fresh-baked croissants and cafe au lait. They’re constantly striving to find new ways to abase their characters as well as the audience and the universe in general, and all for your viewing pleasure. Aren’t they sweet? Aren’t they dedicated? It makes the heart sing, I tell ya.

Like here, they discovered a whole new bodily orifice fresh for the ravaging: the nose. That’s right. The Farrellys — or one of the three other credited screenwriters (not counting Simon), because it takes five people to come up with this stuff — have invented the nasal rape. Oh, not rape with the human appendage typically utilized in the crime, because that would be disgusting. No, it’s just nasal violation with giant medical pills, various edibles… The Farrellys are so in love with the idea of stuff violently rammed up people’s noses that they subject us to multiple variations on the concept. Why, it’s practically a rape of the audience by the end of the film. Don’t consider complaining about it, though: the Farrellys are ready for you. The one character onscreen who is appalled at the idea of a joke about ordinary old anal rape — never mind nasal rape — is pshawed, ridiculed, reminded that it’s “only” a joke. Because anything is funny if the Farrellys say it is.

And then, the boys discovered a whole new repulsive low to which they could take their “hero.” Ben Stiller’s (Night at the Museum, Tenacious D in: The Pick of Destiny) Eddie Cantrow is one of the most vile characters a purported comedy has ever produced, a man who deliberately sabotages the career of the woman he claims to be madly in love with, lies effortlessly to her, subjects her to his relentless passive-aggressive faux nice-guy schtick, tires of her almost instantly, and moves on to the next babe, because this new one is simply perfect and the love of his life and his soulmate… just like the previous one was.

In the world of the Farrellys, though, that’s okay — they don’t think Eddie is vile — because women be bitches, crazy psychopaths who force men to buy tampons for them and reassure them that their asses aren’t fat and generally prey upon men and hold men under their complete and utter sway. (Eddie’s best friend, Mac [Rob Corddry; pal, this was a step way down from The Daily Show], is kept on a short leash by his Stepford wife, who regularly interrupts his guytime with cellphone calls that ring with the Wicked Witch of the West’s horrid theme music. Hey, sheesh, it’s just a joke, okay?) Women are awful, but they are trials men are meant to endure, so who’s to blame Eddie for being such a jerk? He’s driven to it by women.

Not that women have it easy in the Farrellys’ world, though. There’s a very narrow range of what’s acceptable in a woman: don’t be too funny, cuz it makes a gal “mannish”; don’t let your body be too natural (it’s gross if you’re not shaved prepubescent-smooth “down there”) but don’t be too unnatural, either (huge fake boobs are freakin’ scary) — just try guessing, ladies, precisely what is acceptable if you’re to be just barely tolerable to men. The guys won’t tell you, because men and women don’t talk in the Farrellys’ world. Not even to their spouses. Eddie, pressured to conform and give in to a committment to one of these hideous monsters known as women, goes off the deep end and proposes marriage to Lila (Malin Akerman: Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle) six weeks into a whirlwind romance. And he does that only to keep her from heading to Europe for two years for her environmental research; her company won’t send overseas employees who are married; she apparently fails to appreciate that this is what Eddie has done. On their honeymoon in Mexico, it becomes clear what else they have not talked about: money and sex. Not that those kinds of things are important or anything in a marriage.

But it’s funny, see, cuz the Farrellys say it is, that Lila is a sweet and demure lady while dating Eddie, who wants not to rush into sleeping with him so as not to ruin their budding relationship, but that she morphs into a wild, rutting animal the moment they’re hitched. It doesn’t matter that it makes no sense that between the proposal of marriage and the obviously planned-out wedding — they didn’t run to city hall; they had a ceremony and a party, which takes some time to pull together — they didn’t find some time to finally consummate their (we’re told) deep and miraculous love. It doesn’t matter that while Eddie is allowed flaws that, in the eyes of the Farrellys, make him charming and human, Lila is just a freak, and nothing approaching a real person; neither is Miranda (Michelle Monaghan: Mission: Impossible III, Mr. & Mrs. Smith), whom Eddie falls instantly head-over-heels for while Lila is recovering from massive sunburn in their honeymoon suite. They’re only women, after all, and not as important as “humanizing” Eddie by making him suffer at their hands.

See, the movie opens at the wedding of Eddie’s ex, whose father, in his reception speech, praises his little girl’s new spouse by saying that he’s the first guy she ever dated who wasn’t a “total asshole.” This is meant to wound Eddie, because he was one of those old boyfriends, one of those “total assholes,” and meant to endear him to us, somehow. But the accidental misogyny, of a father insulting his own daughter by belittling her relationships? Why, that’s just a bonus.

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MPAA: rated R for strong sexual content, crude humor and language

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb
  • JT

    I saw a TV spot for this where Ben Stiller is at a restaurant and a Spanish band is playing. He gets upset, and does the thing he does in every movie he has ever been in. It’s the clenched-teeth and shaking-fists.

    That was when I decided I had no interest in this crap.

    There are so many amazing looking movies out right now. Why would anyone pay to see this?

    Also, it’s pathetic that they have to advertise it as “Finally, a comedy for adults”. Like Wedding Crashers, The 40 Year-Old Virgin, Borat, Knocked Up and Superbad don’t even exist. Whether you liked those movies or not, they’re still raunchy R-rated comedies. The Farrellys think they’re the only ones who make them anymore.

  • Josh

    Interesting thing about this is that it seems the film is getting good notice from the “cream of the crop” type of critics but negative response from other critics. You don’t often see that unless it is some obscure art film. I know I will like this film. I have liked all of the Farrelly films

  • MBI

    The Farrelly Brothers have always been noted for infusing a great deal of sweetness behind their toilet humor, particularly in the case of There’s Something About Mary, which I think is hilarious but I’m not going to belabor the point. There’s Something About Mary remains the high-point of the bad-things-happen-to-Ben-Stiller comedy for precisely that reason; it offsets the grossness, and it still a fairly affecting love story, all things considered. This is what the Farrellys are known for, even in Dumb & Dumber or the highly misguided Shallow Hal.

    Which is what makes The Heartbreak Kid so disheartening, in that it’s an angry, mean and nasty film by all appearances, making it the first Farrelly Brothers film that I knew right away I had no interest in seeing. (Me, Myself and Irene should have had the same response, but I was 16 at the time.)

    But you know what? I’m just sick of bad things happening to Ben Stiller to begin with. Why can’t something nice ever happen to Ben Stiller, is what I want to know.

  • All I can think of when I see trailers for this film is to wonder how frustrating it must be to be Ben Stiller. Here’s a guy who turns in awesome performances in movies like Permanent Midnight, The Zero Effect, and even fun little comedies like Zoolander, all of which are pretty much ignored. But once he’s in a movie where he explosively defecates, it’s $100 million at the box office!

  • MaryAnn

    The Farrelly Brothers have always been noted for infusing a great deal of sweetness behind their toilet humor

    I see absolutely nothing “sweet” in anything the Farrellys have ever done. I see only humiliation.

    how frustrating it must be to be Ben Stiller.

    I have absolutely no sympathy for Stiller. He knows exactly what he’s getting into with these films. If he wants to whore himself out to the Farrellys, then fine. But that’s exactly what he is: a whore. He could be making small, smart films, at far smaller salaries — but still far more money than most people will ever see — and he doesn’t. *The Ben Stiller Show* more then demonstrated that he is clearly a very smart man, and a very creative one. If he chooses to throw that away in exchange for a shitload of money, that’s his choice.

  • Nolan

    “I see absolutely nothing “sweet” in anything the Farrellys have ever done. I see only humiliation.”

    Yes, I guess it would require that someone have a heart in the first place to notice it.

  • MBI

    Harsh, Nolan.

    Well, anyway, naturally after saying I didn’t want to see this film, I went out and saw it. I’m not sure that the Farrelly Brothers DON’T think Eddie is vile (which he certainly is — I don’t think I’ve ever hated a Stiller character this much, even when he was playing a villain). SPOILERS This is, after all, the first Farrelly film I’ve ever seen which does not end with a happy ending. I mean, I guess it does, but it’s an ironic one, whereas all of their other ones were sincere. Then there’s the scene where a sympathetic character tells Eddie that if he cares about whatsherface, he’ll leave her alone — then immediately we cut to him doing the opposite. It’s like a subversion of the Ben Stiller comedy, right?


    If you listen closely, you can hear the strain of me trying to turn this movie into something justifiable. Even granting that the movie was intended to make Eddie a character of derision, it doesn’t make its case strong enough, and even if they had, it would still make this film only a two-star movie. Is Ben Stiller this hateful in all of his movies? I remember that was the key reason I didn’t like Meet the Parents at all, Stiller just did too many unjustifiable things.

  • MaryAnn

    Yes, I guess it would require that someone have a heart in the first place to notice it.

    Riiiight. That’s it. I have no heart, and the evidence of this is that I complain about characters who are subjected to humiliation and abasement for no reason beyond the “amusement” of the audience. That must be it.

  • Grant

    MaryAnn, for at least the last year you have been the first North American critic I have consulted when it comes to film reviews. Your perspective is fantastically refreshing, your insights perspicacious. I find it incredible that other posters take issue with you when you clearly come from a humanist perspective. When you critique a movie you are obviously doing so as a sensitive, thoughtful human being on behalf and in defence of greater human virtues – and you love a good, dirty joke if no-one is being debased or humiliated. I have no interest in ever seeing a Farrelly brothers movie because I don’t need reminding how civility, respect and – yes – love are continually debased in mainstream popular culture. Like you, I’m not a heavy moralist either; I just want to experience movies that entertain, challenge and move me in unexpected ways, not be fed regurgitated product. It was telling that your review of Knocked Up – again, an insightful critique of the movie’s apparently rampant misogyny and false values – generated such a hostile response, and now with The Heartbreak Kid you’ve reiterated your concerns about society. More power to you!

  • Mimi

    I too enjoy this site and find the reviews incisive and refreshing.

    I haven’t seen the new film yet but I know the original well. Elaine May in the ’72 film focused on Charles Grodin’s discomfort with the fleshy realities of his new bride and his need to escape into a fantasized relationship with a shiksa goddess (Cybill Shepherd). The last scene of that film is brilliant–Charles Grodin gets Cybill at the end, but he’s alienated and isolated at a party with his new “tribe.” His repulsion at his wife’s all-too-human failings and rejection of her culminate in rejection of some essential part of himself.

    There’s a similar dynamic in May’s “A New Leaf,” where Walter Matthau is so disgusted by his wife’s imperfections that he’s determined to murder her (and get all her money) — but at the end he surrenders to his feelings for her and overcomes his resistance to marriage.

    “Zoolander” was funny as hell but Stiller has no appeal or charisma as a romantic lead. And in every film he seems to look more artificial and over-wrought; “Along Came Polly” was repulsive and unwatchable.

    And I’m really tired of the “entitlement” subtext that runs through the male-dominated “romcoms” lately. The guys do nothing to cultivate their relationships, and they take no joy in making women happy. Instead they torment or insult the female characters and still expect to get the “hot women” at the end.

  • Fred

    Total assholes bothering you? Try sendahole.com.

  • Josh

    I’m thinking that Nolan was referring to MaryAnn’s comments about the other Farrelly films not having heart, not talking about this film. That is what the main complaint I have been hearing about this film is, that it has none of the heart that the Brothers other films have. I can remember the main complaint about Irene being that it was not a heartfelt love story like Mary was. Still a harsh comment regardless

  • Brett

    “…because women be bitches…”

    That is just some great phrasing, there. Too funny, MaryAnn.

    Also, why does Ben Stiller look so OLD in this?

  • Nitt Picker

    I yield to no one in my admiration of both MaryAnn and Dorothy Parker, but it was Alice Roosevelt Longworth who said, “If you can’t say anything nice about someone, come sit here next to me.”

  • Josh

    You know, the comment about Stiller continuing to do movies like this when he does have tremendous talent got me thinking. I can remember Jim Carrey being interviewed by Matt Lauer in the late 90’s. Lauer kind of threw a question out about Carrey being the first actor to demand 20 million and if he thinks any actor is worth it. Carrey snapped back that he did find it very stupid for any actor to make that much, especially him. But, he then asked Lauer if someone offered him that much money, would he turn it down.. Would any of us? Carrey has certainly branched out more than Stiller though. I think Stiller can do drama just as Carrey can. So where is Stiller’s Truman Show or Eternal Sunshine? Ben Stiller is either one of those actors that I love or hate. I loved him in movies like Mary, Dodgeball and even Starsky. I hate him in movies like Night at the Museum, Fockers, and Polly.

  • Ben Stiller’s best movie was and always will be The Zero Effect. And, probably, There’s Something About Mary.

    I have no desire to see this movie whatsoever, not even on a tv repeat, because I am so. tired. Stiller’s shtick. When are people going to realize he’s got only one character, and he plays it in every single movie?

  • amanohyo

    I haven’t seen Zero Effect, but I always had a soft spot for Mystery Men, although it didn’t live up to the potential of its concept and cast. It’s more due to my geeky love of Wes Studi (AKA Victor Sagat, AKA Magua) as The Sphinx than Stiller’s dull Mr. Furious though.

  • Josh

    OK. Went and saw this this evening. Overall, the audience, made up of mostly a 40+ crowd, seemed to dig it. I thought 75% of the film was very entertaining. It was certainly funny, but did not feel the need to force the humor and become ridiculous, even though the premise called for it. I also did not at all feel that the Stiller character was a bad guy, just a guy who rushed into marriage and then just happened to meet the right girl at the wrong time. Yes, it was silly but this is a Farrelly movie for crying out loud. Then, right about the scene where everyone caught on to Stiller’s antics, the film just went to hell. It crashed and burned. I could have thought of a much better way to end the film. They just took not only the conventional way to end the film but also the easy way to turn the audience off. There were a couple of points during this messy 20 minutes that I started to question the Stiller character. The final few minutes of the film are just way too creepy and makes the Stiller character out to be a bastard. The rest of the film did not treat him like that IMO. The film would probably get about * * 1/2 from me because I did like the film up until the final 20 minutes.

  • MaryAnn

    a heartfelt love story like Mary

    You people have bizarre ideas about constitutes “heart.”

    Alice Roosevelt Longworth

    Doh! You’re right, of course. I corrected the review.

    he then asked Lauer if someone offered him that much money, would he turn it down.. Would any of us?

    This makes me think of the joke about the man who asked a woman to sleep with him for a million dollars; she says yes. Then he says, Will you do it for a dollar? She gets all indignant and demands, Just what do you think I am? He responds, We know what you are, madam — now we’re just haggling over the price.

    Yes, it was silly but this is a Farrelly movie for crying out loud.

    Silly is not the problem. Stupid is the problem.

  • MBI

    “It was certainly funny, but did not feel the need to force the humor and become ridiculous, even though the premise called for it. ”

    You’re kidding, right? This was as broad a comedy as you will ever get. It was completely ridiculous. A few of those things surprising him could have been plausible, but all of them? And where even the Farrellys’ bad guys had some humanity to them (Matt Dillon in “Mary,” Bill Murray in “Kingpin”), Akerman is nothing but a series of sight gags with nice legs. And as a side note, I didn’t find a second of it funny.

    “The final few minutes of the film are just way too creepy and makes the Stiller character out to be a bastard. ”

    Isn’t he?? I mean, when his dad tells him, “So she’s singing a lot and wants to have lots of sex?? Kid, shut up!” I wanted to applaud. Just as I did when the douchebag cousin asked him how long he had known Miranda before he decided she was the one. This guy is, in fact, an asshole. He’s sneaking around behind his wife’s back on his honeymoon, that’s fucking gross and wrong. I was annoyed when he got angry at Akerman for calling herself an environmental researcher, too.

    I agree that the movie lost its focus in the last twenty minutes, but sloppiness aside, I LOVED that it called him out on his bullshit. I even began trying to reevaluate the movie as a blacker-than-black comedy where you were SUPPOSED to hate every character. Didn’t work — Ben Stiller still at least looks like a human, it doesn’t really stick it to him that hard, not like it does to Akerman. Also it has no insight into the way people actually hurt each other, such as Closer, The Rules of Attraction and The Break-Up (all among my favorite movies).

    Still, I appreciate that it didn’t end with Stiller making a huge apology and then declaring his love and then it all ends happily ever after and Stiller gets everything the way he wants it, a la Meet the Parents or (*puke*) Wedding Crashers.

  • MBI

    As for Stiller, he has enough money to buy and sell your ass. He couldn’t possibly need any more. With the cash he has, he could spend the rest of his time doing smaller personal projects without worrying too much. Even Will Ferrell does his “Melinda & Melinda” or “Stranger Than Fiction” in between his more popular stuff. I think Stiller’s directorial debut “Reality Bites” is one of the worst movies ever made and it drives me into a Mr. Furious-style rage, but I’d rather see him doing things like that than the no-effort megaturds he spends his time making now.

  • Josh

    I agree that the Akerman character is way too sympathetic. They should have given her some traits that would make her seem more evil than unbearable. Regardless, I would be freaked out too if I was on a honeymoon and found out all of these horrible things about my new wife. I wrote a play in college about a guy who is planning his wedding when he discovers he is already married. A year earlier he had gotten drunk in Vegas, married a stripper, then shipped out the next day with no recollection of the night before. I too hard a hard time making the audience sympathize with the main character. You have to make the other woman totally horrible in order for it to work. Then again, why did audiences not see the Meg Ryan character in Sleepless In Seattle as horrible? She was fantasizing about another man while engaged to Bill Pullman. Or what about the Julia Roberts character in Best Friends Wedding

  • MaryAnn

    I too hard a hard time making the audience sympathize with the main character. You have to make the other woman totally horrible in order for it to work.

    So, the guy who is horrible must be sympathetic, and the woman who should be the object of our sympathy must be made horrible so we don’t feel bad for her?

  • MBI

    “Then again, why did audiences not see the Meg Ryan character in Sleepless In Seattle as horrible?”

    Beats the living shit out of me. “Sleepless in Seattle” is one of my all-time least favorite movies.

    Thinking about this movie more, I think the problem with it is that the movie kind of requires that Stiller be unlikable, but the Farrellys only figured that out two-thirds of the way through. This movie is such an unfocused mess, and despite its attempts to make dear Ben look like a cad, it excuses its actions just because Akerman is so vile and that bullshit “classic misunderstanding”. This hateful movie just isn’t hateful ENOUGH.

  • The failure of this film is now being blamed on those Evil Video Games, because goodness knows it’s not as though there could be anything wrong with the film itself.


  • But these shitty gross-out romantic comedies always make big bucks, especially if Ben Stiller or Will Ferrell are in them. I’m not defending the movie, but poor quality has never been reliable indicator of box office returns before.

  • MaryAnn

    I think there’s an excellent point to be made about the Halo competition. Perhaps if Hollywood got away from putting all its eggs in the opening-weekend basket, that wouldn’t be such a problem…

  • Pedro

    hey guess what? some women ARE “crazy psychopaths who force men to buy tampons for them and reassure them that their asses aren’t fat”.

    i know some pretty screwed-up marriages, like there’s this guy whose wife won’t even let him text-message a MALE friend without throwing a “you’re-seeing-someone-else-i-know-you-don’t-love-me-any-more” tantrum.

    and that’s just a tip of the iceberg. most of my committed friends are so whipped, it makes me glad, for once, that i’m single.

  • MaryAnn

    Why do men put up with shit like that?

  • MBI

    Same reason women do, I imagine.

    Hey, now that this thread is resurrected, did you ever catch “My Super Ex-Girlfriend”? Man oh man. It’s just like “The Heartbreak Kid” — but WORSE. On steroids. It may be the most offensively misogynist movie I’ve ever seen.

  • Pedro

    either because:

    a – they’re pussy-whipped.

    b – they are “accomodated” (like my friend defines it himself) and unwilling to change.

    c – they’re emotionally insecure (that’s why I stray away from commitment myself – i know i’ll be totally whipped by even a mildly self-assured girl).

    but the point here was, there actually *are* women who are bitches in real life.

  • MaryAnn

    Same reason women do, I imagine.

    Which is what?

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