Ben Stiller as Eddie Cantrow
Malin Akerman as Lila
Michelle Monaghan as Miranda
Jerry Stiller as Doc
Carlos Mencia as Uncle Tito
Rob Corddry as Mac
Stephanie Courtney as Gayla
Ali Hillis as Jodi
Kathy Lamkin as Lila’s Mom
Joel Bryant as Michael
Lauren Bowles as Tammy
Roy Jenkins as Buzz
Danny R. McBride as Martin
Eva Longorria as Consuela
Directed by Peter and Bobby Farrelly
While this ’70s comedy remake isn’t a complete return to form for Peter and Bobby Farrelly, nor is it quite as sophisticated as other recent R-rated sex comedies, it’s certainly a step back in the right direction for the pioneers of raunch.
Eddie Cantrow (Ben Stiller) has not been as lucky in love as his friends, but when he meets the vivacious Lila (Malin Akerman), he thinks she’s the perfect woman for him, and he quickly marries her. Things are fine until they go on their honeymoon to a Mexican resort where her true nature springs its ugly (and borderline psychotic) head, at the same time that Eddie meets the easy-going Miranda (Michelle Monaghan) who seems like a much better match.
Although Peter and Bobby Farrelly reached the height of their comedy niche when they paired Ben Stiller and Cameron Diaz for “There’s Something About Mary,” it doesn’t necessarily seem like they’ve been trying to spend the time since then recreating that magic. Yet one has to wonder how the duo got so watered-down by the Hollywood system to make a comedy as formulaic as 2005’s “Fever Pitch.” By the nature of remakes, one might immediately be skeptical of this update on the 1972 Neil Simon penned comedy, but the thoughts of them reuniting with Ben Stiller helps to dispel the looming danger of this turning into another “The In-Laws,” in other words, a remake that probably didn’t even work in theory.
As the movie begins with Eddie attending the wedding of his ex-fiance, there’s some worries about this being another Stiller romantic comedy disaster ala “Along Came Polly,” as he’s harangued by his sex-crazed father (Jerry Stiller) and his hen-pecked best friend (Rob Corddry, in a bit of brilliant casting). Eddie then meets the perky blonde Lila (Malin Akerman) when he stops someone from stealing her purse, and a chance encounter leads to a courtship that convinces Eddie that Lila is the woman he’s meant to be with. The duo quickly get married and proceed to go on the honeymoon from hell at a Mexican resort where all of Lila’s secrets start coming out.
It’s almost immediately obvious how different Stiller is these days from when he made “Mary,” having lost much of the affable innocence that made him the perfect protagonist for the Farrellys’ prior romantic comedy. These days, his comedy range is limited to somewhere between slow burn and full-on rage, so in this case, he’s often left to play the straight man to Malin Akerman, a new addition to the roster of gorgeous and funny blondes who’s likely to start stealing gigs from Cameron Diaz and Anna Faris after this movie. Their rough sex scenes are particularly hilarious, because they make it apparent that Akerman isn’t afraid to do whatever it takes to get laughs at her own expense, even sporting a horrendous sunburn throughout much of the movie.
Michelle Monaghan is equally delightful and perfectly cast as the “other woman,” and while we’ve seen her play this type of role before, she’s the perfect counterpoint to Lila’s insanity, making it easy to understand why Eddie takes the chance to be with her. A lot of the comedy in the second half of the movie comes from Eddie trying to keep Lila a secret from Miranda and her backwoods Southern family, none of whom trust Eddie, and you’re just waiting for Lila to find out and explode. Like “Mary,” the Farrellys’ ability to pull together a strong ensemble of supporting characters around the leads makes the situational humor even funnier.
At times, it seems like Peter and Bobby are trying hard to make sure viewers know this isn’t the softer Farrellys that made “Fever Pitch,” resorting to their edgier humor of early movies. Sadly, much of this involves fat and gay jokes, but with the benefits of an R-rating, the Farrellys are able to get absolutely filthy with some of their raunchiest sex humor yet, most of it coming from Carlos Mencia as the resort manager Uncle Tito and Stiller’s dad Jerry. Still, it’s Rob Corddry who gets some of the biggest laughs by playing the obligatory best friend character in a way that plays to his strengths. Judd Apatow’s movies are proof how laughs can be attained when funny comedians are allowed to let loose. By comparison, some of this seems forced, as if the Farrelly Brothers are trying to catch-up with a trend they started. The big difference is that you can tell this has been meticulously scripted and planned where Apatow allows for the happy accidents that come from improvisation and on-the-fly changes.
Some of the physical humor is kind of obvious–how many times can we see someone opening a bottle of champagne and the cork hitting someone else in the head?–but some of the jokes have a great pay-off like the ever-present mariachi band that quickly gets on Eddie’s nerves. Again, Stiller enraged is always worth a laugh even when you know it’s coming eventually. Once Lila is out of the picture, things start to settle down, as the movie struggles with how to get Eddie out of the situation, ultimately jumping forward in time not once but twice to finally get to the ending most will be expecting. Considering how obvious it is, one might wonder why it takes so long to get there, but at least there’s enough laughs along the way that you can’t hold it against them for returning to a formula that works.
The Bottom Line:
“The Heartbreak Kid” doesn’t set any new standards in comedy nor does it break a lot of new ground for the Farrelly Brothers or Ben Stiller, but there’s something to be said about how their reunion doesn’t try to redefine them, as much as it sets out to prove they still have what it takes to get laughs from the sickest, raunchiest things. If you like their earlier movies, you shouldn’t be too disappointed.