Saturday, October 06, 2007

REVIEW: The Heatrbreak Kid (2007)

The Farrelly Brothers' Formula is as follows: A sappy romantic comedy, told primarily from the perspective of the male lead, infused with envelope-pushing moments of can-you-show-that-in-a-movie scatology so that teenaged boys don't realize they're watching a chick flick. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but there it is. Here, it's been applied to the basic structure of a 1970s Neil Simon flick in place of the original's very of-the-moment cynicism about the romantic ideals of love and marriage... and I have to wonder if the Brothers are as gobsmacked as I am that it didn't work.

The basic premise is the same: Eddie (Ben Stiller) a lifetime bachelor, just got married in a hurry (short-version: mid-life crisis) to the beautiful Lila (Malin Ackerman, who's now the first trouble-sign for "Watchmen" if her turn here isn't an unfortunate fluke) and headed of to Cabo for the honeymoon - whereupon he quickly discovers A.) that Lila is really, really irritating and wrong for him; and B.) that the (single) woman of his dreams (Michelle Monaghan) is at the same hotel.

That's a funny premise, and it worked the first time around thanks to an honest understanding of the it's own potentials and implications: It was cynical, but also practical, about the idealizing of both marriage AND singlehood. It's characters, in the spirit of 1970s dark comedy, were all largely selfish and unidealized creatures - in other words, they were fully human: Charles Grodin as the hero was, while not "evil," an egocentric jerk. His main dissapointment with his new wife is that she's too much oriented toward the traditional marriage-ideal - she wants to be June Cleaver, and he's built more for a Desperate Housewife. That's why he's so enamored of the "other woman," a blonde ice-queen played by Cybil Shepherd: She doesn't "need" or even all that much "want" him... their made for eachother. Probably.

The Farrelly's have populated their version with their usual collection of slightly-grosser Hollywood rom-com superbeings, which is the foundation of it's rapid ruin: This story just doesn't work when the wandering husband and the other woman are both genuinely good, decent people "destined" to be perfect for eachother. A guy who's as movie-hero good and decent as we're told Eddie is would NEVER chase another woman on his honeymoon unless pushed to a ridiculous extreme, which requires that Lila become a ridiculous caricature of body-functions, personality-flaws and dark-backstory that's just disasterously over-the-top to - It's not enough to make her "wrong" for Eddie, she has to become a bad person.

Perfect example: Early on, much is made of Lila's deviated-septum which leads to her accidentally spraying liquids (and more) from her nose. It's understandable that Eddie would be a bit grossed out to learn this, and at the prospect of having to deal with it for the rest of his life, but for a mere physical tic to help his eye start wandering would make him slightly less than a 100% worth-pulling-for hero; so soon enough we're told that her condition is the result of a prior cocaine habit. Eddie is put-off and more-than-a-little frightened by her, but the audience is told to HATE her. The Farrelly's aren't misogynists, but in trying too hard to make us root for Eddie unconditionally they've engaged in the kind of woman-hating that you rarely see outside of films made by women.

Likewise, it'd be ridiculous to assume that someone who's as nice/smart as we're told Miranda is wouldn't catch on tho things sooner. This requires a truly hackneyed bit of contrivance, like something out of the worst sitcom, wherein she believes something about "Eddie's wife" that isn't precisely true, and phrases it in such a way so that Eddie thinks everything is okay when, in fact, it isn't. Dumb.

This is just bad writing and poor filmmaking, plain and simple. The actors, with the exception of a typically-annoying Carlos Mencia, are trying with nothing to work with. And what was surely hoped to be the "Mary Moment" of grossout humor falls totally flat. It's a bust. Pity.