Purists looking to tear apart this update of Neil Simon's 1972 screenplay, "The Heartbreak Kid," should relax and embrace what the Farrelly Brothers have done with the material. Blending Simon's work with their own frothy brew of filth, they've turned the "Kid" into a scream.
Eddie Cantrow (Ben Stiller) is hungry for love, but unable to find a woman who fits his needs. Into his life comes Lila (Malin Akerman), a gorgeous creature who Eddie can't believe is as perfect as she seems. To avoid a job relocation, Eddie and Lila quickly marry and head to Mexico for their honeymoon. It doesn't take long for Eddie to sense Lila's repulsive personality quirks, which only worsen over the course of their trip. Finding himself in deep martial trouble, Eddie finds comfort in the company of Miranda (Michelle Monaghan). As romance starts to blossom between the two, Eddie contemplates how he can get rid of his wife.
After a steady stream of PG-13 efforts, "Heartbreak Kid" orders Peter and Bobby Farrelly back into the warm waters of the R rating. This is the Farrellys of "Something About Mary" fame, returning an exquisite edge to their comedic pursuits. "Heartbreak" also brings Stiller back into the fold, and the coupling couldn't be more fruitful. For Stiller, last seen in the entertainment whiffle ball "Night at the Museum," "Heartbreak" allows him a chance to raunch it up as well.
While keeping Simon's structure, the new "Heartbreak" quickly tears off to become its own creature. This is a comedy about bubbly energy and smutty delight. It's the Farrellys picking up where they left off with 2000's "Me, Myself & Irene," dishing out a line-up of audience-goosing bits; spiky material that returns a little of the water-cooler visibility they used to enjoy (two words: donkey show).
The character of Lila alone is more than enough ammo for the directors, exploring her acrobatic and uncomfortably violent sexual desires, personal grooming habits (or lack thereof), and the character's general penchant for deviated septumless slapstick. Sold with impressive bravery by Akerman (truly the MVP of the film), Lila's sequences are the barnstormers of "Heartbreak" that pinch the viewer raw.
While the rest of the film sort of steps around Akerman, but there's no shortage of laughs. What's amazing about "Heartbreak" is that this isn't a rat-tat-tat comedy; instead, the Farrellys have invested in breathing room for the story, allowing time for Eddie's frustrations to simmer and the chemistry with Miranda to gel. The picture doesn't always leap for the jugular, preferring a more metered pace for the randy bits. Perhaps a sign of the Farrellys getting older or maybe just a way to keep the film from running into a brick wall, but "Heartbreak" feels more selective than their previous efforts.
Even if the pace tends to slacken now and again, there's much to cheer for in "Heartbreak," the highlight being the return of anger to the Farrelly cannons. Eddie undergoes a series of painful humiliations during his journey to romantic redemption, but none hit the sweet pitch of funny as much as when he gets the tar beaten out of him. In classic Stiller fashion, the broader moments of "Heartbreak" are the winners, showcasing the film's desire to mix it up between the saccharine material that pleases everyone and the subtle, dodgy jokes that make the guy in the back row howl. A film highlight is watching Eddie as he spends months trying to border jump back into America from Mexico, slowly assuming the culture as his attempts fail.
I'm reluctant to write that "Heartbreak Kid" is a return to form for the Farrellys (I was a big fan of their 2005 effort, "Fever Pitch), but it is a particularly strong entry in their oeuvre of spit-take comedies, returning some much needed elasticity to their funny bones.
For further online adventure, please visit brianorndorf.com