Dir: Peter and Bobby Farrelly. US. 2007. 116 mins.
A story of awkwardly overlapping romances liberally seasoned with the over-the-top humour patented by the Farrelly brothers, The Heartbreak Kid reunites the behind-camera comedy specialists with star Ben Stiller in a careening showcase for serial outrageousness. The film is a loose update of director Elaine May and writer Neil Simon's 1972 film of the same name.
Fresh off the top earner of his career, last holiday season's Night at the Museum, Stiller should have another chart-topping success on his hands here. Generally fresh word-of-mouth, as well as an audience base expanded by the success of Universal's two Meet the Parents pictures, should help turn out a solid percentage of the over-35 crowd, and put The Heartbreak Kid on track for the top spot at the box office this weekend. Ancillary value will also remain high, given the film's genre replay value and the fact that Stiller - whose Night at the Museum grossed 56 percent of its $570 million haul internationally - is an increasingly valuable overseas commodity, especially in films with an element of heightened domestic torture.
Stiller stars as San Francisco sports store owner Eddie Cantrow, who, after years of bachelorhood and ample pressure from his widowed father, Doc (Jerry Stiller), and best friend Mac (Rob Corddry), starts to wonder if he's being too picky about the women he meets.
The wedding of a former girlfriend only serves to amplify these feelings of isolation, so when a chance encounter with an alluring blonde marine researcher named Lila (Malin Akerman) leads to the sweet bloom of romance, Eddie believes he's finally found true love. When the threat of a potential job transfer for Lila endangers the relationship, Eddie impulsively proposes.
But as the newlyweds drive down the California coast on their honeymoon in Cabo San Lucas, Eddie feels familiar pangs of unease. Soon after reaching their exotic Mexican hideaway, he's convinced he's made a terrible mistake, put off as he is by Lila's aggressive bedroom demeanor and a chain of kept secrets that range from merely unnerving (a deviated septum) to jaw-tighteningly negligent (a mountain of debt, an old drug habit).
It's here that Eddie also happens to fall for the down-to-earth Miranda (Michelle Monaghan), who's visiting with her family.
Miranda has no clue that Eddie has just married, and with Lila confined to the honeymoon suite with a brutal case of sunburn, Eddie struggles to find a way to extricate himself from his days-old marriage without losing the (new) girl of his dreams.
A tangled bit of misunderstanding Leads Miranda to believe that Eddie is a widower, but when that gives way to the truth, and Miranda returns home, Eddie sets off to try to win her back.
The Heartbreak Kid retains the Farrellys' trademark humanistic touch - evident with the care paid to Miranda's country-raised family - but it also doesn't hesitate to offend, chiefly through Lila's sexual voraciousness, but also through casually brusque language and a wide array of one-liners.
Notions of character consistency are hard to pin down, especially since some of Lila's sprung 'surprises' are matters that would have been sorted out, even in six weeks of virginal, whirlwind courtship.
The Heartbreak Kid asks to be taken seriously as something of more modern, sardonic substance than director Elaine May and screenwriter Neil Simon's original 1972 comedy. From Eddie's familial entanglements with his 'would-be' in-laws to the movie's general view of relationships and its barbed, deliciously bleak-hearted ending, this attempts to plumb darker comic depths.
The blue asides (bits that include a shot of Lila's hairy, pierced pubic area, and a discussion of Carlos Mencia's hotel concierge placing Lila's hand on his genitals) often arrive with the jarring force of a less-than-well-oiled traveling theme park ride; they're naughty, outside-the-lines colouring, wedged in for effect.
Still, the performances are almost uniformly engaging, with Stiller cycling through a catalog of sputtering resistance ploys that still work, no matter their familiarity. Ackerman (The Brothers Solomon) attacks her underwritten role with manic relish, increasing the odds of being cast for something other than her knockout looks.
Monaghan, meanwhile, is superb as the unassuming Miranda. Showing a different side of her talents than previously seen in dramatic fare like North Country and Gone Baby Gone, she points up the sexiness of forthright playfulness with cuteness and aplomb.
Technical credits are solid all around. The Farrellys' films have always been smart about their musical selections and here a keen selection of rock and pop ditties are counterbalanced nicely by Brendan and Bill Ryan's score.
Cinematographer Matthew Leonetti (the 2004 Dawn of the Dead remake), meanwhile, beautifully captures the outdoor Western light, both in San Francisco and on location in Cabo.
Davis Entertainment Company
Marc S. Fischer
Charles B. Wessler
based on the screenplay by Neil Simon
based on the short story 'A Change of Plan' by Bruce Jay Friedman
Matthew F. Leonetti