**1/2 out of *****
“The Heartbreak Kid” reunites Ben Stiller with directors Bobby and Peter Farrelly, those wacky siblings behind Stiller’s hit “There’s Something About Mary.” When “Mary” came out it in 1998, the film was noted for how well it tempered scenes of unprecedented vulgarity with sweet romance.
Nearly 10 years later, I think it’s fair to say the Farrelly brothers have lost their way; their niche in cinema has been usurped by writer/director Judd Apatow (“The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” “Knocked Up”) whose films surpass the Farrellys’ not only in terms of profanity and vulgarity, but also in intellect and heart.
“The Heartbreak Kid” isn’t really a bad film (in fact, it comes as something of a relief among the bevy of serious-minded Oscar-contenders competing for space at movie theaters nowadays), but it just isn’t that funny. No matter how hard it tries to shock us with gross-out gags or “outrageous” dialogue, the film is strained and inconsistent.
Stiller stars as Eddie Cantrow, a storeowner whose love life is in a draught. Eddie’s father, Doc (Jerry Stiller), and his love-struck friend, Mac (Rob Corddry), relentlessly encourage him to find someone before it’s too late.
Sure enough, Eddie meets a woman named Lila (Malin Akerman), a flighty and attractive research scientist (or so she says).
Eddie and Lila date and have some good times – which are depicted in one of the Farrellys’ overwrought montages set to pop music – and he eventually decides to give marriage a shot. Not long after, Eddie and Lila are off to Mexico for their honeymoon.
But Lila soon reveals herself as erratic, crass and downright dumb, prompting Eddie to seriously reconsider that part in his vows about “. as long as you both shall live.”
Matters are further complicated when Eddie meets Miranda (Michelle Monaghan), a woman vacationing with her family who is everything Lila is not: stable, kind, self-deprecating, intelligent, etc. Who will Eddie end up with? If you don’t know, then I feel sorry for you.
Clichéd plot and characters aside, the real problem with “The Heartbreak Kid” is its lack of genuine laughs. A running gag where Eddie’s heterosexuality is questioned by twin teenage boys is unfunny and uninventive, and Carlos Mencia is wasted in a role that is neither amusing nor especially necessary.
I’ll admit, I laughed a few times during the film (mostly because I possess a profoundly juvenile sense of humor), but those laughs were sporadic and fleeting; if I saw the film again I doubt I would emit so much as a snigger.
With a more irreverent and imaginative attitude, “The Heartbreak Kid” could have been funny. Instead, it’s weak farce. The Farrelys need to go back to the drawing board.
Verve writer Jeff Schwartz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.