Sometimes it's better to stick with your gut. In the face of the unknown just go with your first impression and stick with it. Trust your instincts.
The problem with that kind of thinking, though, is you never really know for certain when those moments are. And for every instance in which the gut proves victorious, there's an equal number of other moments when taking the time to think, investigate, and weigh the possibilities yields success.
As soon as I heard about "The Heartbreak Kid" I had a real bad feeling about it. The premise just sounded like a nightmare to me. A decent, likable guy marries this woman he has not known very long. After the marriage she suddenly transforms from Cinderella into one of the ugly stepsisters. She goes from kind, likable sweetheart to annoying, selfish idiot. Our protagonist then meets the woman of his dreams while on the honeymoon from hell.
That is truly a horrific situation. The Cassandra in my brain went into overdrive: "This is going to be a miserable cinematic experience. Avoid it at all costs." And I was going to. Then those demons of advertising wheeled up the Trojan Horse right up to my gates. First off, the movie was going to be an R, and not just an R. This was going to be a hardcore, push-the-R-rating to its limits, extreme comedy. After all, it's a Farrelly brothers picture we're talking about here.
I was seduced.
I bought the tickets and wheeled the Trojan Horse into the castle. It was only once the lights dimmed and the film began that the Greek soldiers rushed out and I realized the severity of my lapse in judgment.
The film started out very slow. I just sat there waiting, wondering when the jokes were going to start. It begins with Ben Stiller as Eddie, a 40-year-old bachelor living in San Francisco who owns his own sporting goods store. Eddie and his father (Jerry Stiller) are walking and talking. And the father is giving your basic fatherly advice that we've all heard - just the usual encouragement to go out and have as much random, meaningless sex as possible. The next day Eddie attends his ex-fiancee's wedding where he's bashed and humiliated.
The following day he's again walking through the streets of San Francisco and he encounters a man on a bike stealing a woman's purse. Eddie fails to stop the thief but he does meet the victim Lila (Malin Akerman) who seeks him out at his store the next day and asks him out on a date. Cue the romantic montage scene to show the passage of time and development of their relationship.
Finally, after six weeks of dating, Lila drops a bomb: she's being transferred overseas for her job and the only way she could avoid moving is if she was married. Eddie confers with his father and best friend Mac (the Daily Show's Rob Corddry) who ultimately convince him to take the plunge.
Let's stop here for a moment. Up to this point it's really not that funny. We're just sitting there, biding our time, tolerating the rather boring set-up, assuming that the jokes will start once the couple hit the honeymoon and Lila makes the transformation. And I guess you could say that the jokes start coming. Perhaps that's one definition of "joke." I decided to look up "joke" in the dictionary. The first definition is " something said or done to provoke laughter or cause amusement." So I guess a joke is something said with the intent of being funny. Another definition is "something that is amusing or ridiculous" - leading one to believe that for a joke to be a joke it must actually be funny. So whether a joke is a joke because of its intent to be funny or its actual nature being one of funniness... Never mind the semantics, the point is that it's not funny.
The movie's failure was not cemented by its lack of laughs. Upon arriving in Mexico for their honeymoon the couple is instructed to seek out "Uncle Tito," a friend of Mac's who works at the resort. Uncle Tito is played by none other than Carlos Mencia, the second worst comedian on the planet after the abomination known as Larry the Cable Guy. The inclusion of Mencia in the film just says it all about the judgment of the filmmakers and everyone involved in the movie's production. Suddenly it begins to make sense that none of the jokes work. Anyone who could watch "Mind of Mencia" on Comedy Central and say "let's put him in a movie!" has no business making comedies.
By this point the Greek soldiers were rampaging throughout the theatre. But we survived. After about an hour and fifteen minutes my girlfriend and I decided to leave - to escape. It was a decision I'd been contemplating for at least a half hour. We were just bored. We knew where the film was going and didn't have much reason to stick around. At that point in the film Eddie had met Miranda (Michelle Monaghan,) a wonderful woman who was at a family reunion at the same resort. And, as seems to be required in most mainstream comedies, especially those of a romantic nature, there was a deep-rooted conflict based on lies and misunderstandings. Eddie had not told Miranda why he was there and when he thinks that she has found out she actually has not. Through various machinations of the plot she and her family have come to think something else about Eddie instead of what is actually happening. That kind of cliché, seen-it-a-million-times plot is fine if you've got good jokes to hang on it. "The Heartbreak Kid" does not, though. There is just nothing there to justify watching it.
All of this is somewhat tragic because nine years ago Stiller teamed up with the Farrelly brothers to make one of the greatest comedies of all time. "There's Something About Mary" was just about the perfect comedy. It had great characters, continual laughs, boundary-pushing jokes, career-making performances, and a plot that could actually be enjoyed instead of tolerated. It was comedy with heart, brains, and originality.
Since their 1998 triumph, the Farrelly brothers, once potential heirs of John Waters for the crown in the kingdom of extreme gross-out comedy, have never really been able to come back to their peak. They first made their name and built up steam with 1994's "Dumb and Dumber" and 1996's "Kingpin." After the success of "Mary," they again tapped Jim Carrey with the decent "Me, Myself,& Irene." Since then it's been downhill as they continue to wade in the shallow end of mediocrity: "Osmosis Jones," "Shallow Hall," "Stuck on You," "Fever Pitch," and now "The Heartbreak Kid." They are in desperate need of hit, having well surpassed the three strikes I usually afford auteurs of note.
At least the premise of their next film in development is the most promising since "Mary." Due out in 2009: "The Three Stooges."
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