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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