Dirs: Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly. US. 2003. 118 mins.

Are the Farrelly brothers, the original kings of gross-out comedy, going soft' It often seems that way in this potentially outrageous comedy that in fact shows off the brothers' sweet side to some effect but delivers little of the bracingly over-the-top humour we've come to expect from the creators of Dumb And Dumber and There's Something About Mary. In the US Stuck On You poses a double challenge to distributor Fox: how to secure the Farrellys' traditional young male audience and at the same time reach out to the older women who have reportedly responded best to the film in test screenings. The challenge will extend to the international marketplace (where some Farrelly movies have come close to matching their domestic totals), though in many territories the problem may be mitigated by less competitive New Year release slots.

The Farrellys have always enjoyed pushing the un-PC envelope - they did it last with 2002's body image satire Shallow Hal - but this time out they risk offending even more than usual.

The heroes of their screenplay, originally written in 1990, before the writer-directors first hit big with Dumb And Dumber, are Bob and Walt Tenor, conjoined twins (the film mostly avoids the term 'Siamese twins') leading happy lives running a burger joint on Martha's Vineyard. When amateur actor Walt (Kinnear) decides he wants to try his luck in Hollywood, Bob (Damon) reluctantly agrees to the move, partly because Walt has less of the pair's shared liver and is therefore ageing faster. But life in Tinseltown puts a strain on Bob and Walt's relationship and eventually leads to big changes for the literally inseparable brothers.

Even more than they have in previous outings the Farrellys here show a real affection and respect for those the rest of society might consider 'freaks'. Bob and Walt are portrayed as successful business owners, active sportsmen and popular ladies' men and much of the comedy comes from the their blithe acceptance of their situation. Only on a couple of occasions does the film indulge in potty or willy gags and the sight of the brothers without their shirts - they're connected just above the waist - is for the most part treated matter-of-factly.

The comedy rarely produces big laughs, but it does produce a few amusing moments, like the scene in which Bob and Walt attempt to get into a fist fight with each other. Fairly straight dramatic moments are almost as prevalent, as the twins try to learn how to live their own lives in the big city. It's pretty simplistic stuff, but it does make for a couple of mildly affecting scenes.

Maybe the film's biggest - or at any rate most saleable - asset is its cast. Damon acquits himself respectably in his first really broad comic outing and his pulling power (after the success of The Bourne Identity and Ocean's 11) will probably give the film a needed box office boost. Kinnear, who worked in somewhat similar vein in Mystery Men and Nurse Betty, gives the stronger performance however, bringing some real poignancy to the outgoing, ambitious Walt. In supporting roles, Mendes (from 2 Fast 2 Furious) is amiable as the boys' first Hollywood friend, and veteran Cassel is nicely goofy as Walt's geriatric agent.

A couple of notable cameo appearances might help draw moviegoers who would normally pass on a Farrellys movie. Cher does a self-deprecating turn as herself and Meryl Streep takes a small role that includes a few dance steps in the film's bizarre musical finale (choreographed by Bringing Down The House director Adam Shankman).

Prod cos: 20th Century Fox, Connundrum Entertainment
W'wdie dist:
Bradley Thomas, Charles B Wessler, Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly
Exec prod:
Marc S Fischer
Peter Farrelly, Bobby Farrelly
Dan Mindel
Prod des:
Sidney J Bartholomew Jr
Christopher Greenbury, Dave Terman
Costume des:
Deena Appel
Mark Charpentier, Garrett Grant, Kris Meyer
Music supervisors:
Tom Wolfe, Manish Raval
Makeup effects des:
Tony Gardner
Rick Montgomery
Main cast:
Matt Damon Greg Kinnear, Eva Mendes, Cher, Seymour Cassel