© 2007 Ray Wong
A modern remake of Neil Simon's 1972 original (starring Charles Grodin and Cybill Shepherd), The Heartbreak Kid has all the Farrelly brothers' crudeness but not much of their charm.
Hardly a "kid," Eddie Cantrow (Ben Stiller) is a 40-year-old bachelor who is clinically commitment-phobic. Then he meets the perfect woman, Lila (Malin Akerman), who is smart, sweet, and gorgeous. The pressure of settling down prompts Eddie to marry Lila after only knowing her for six weeks.
On their way to honeymoon in Mexico, Lila reveals more of her true self to Eddie, who realizes that he may have made a mistakes. Meanwhile, Eddie meets another woman, Miranda (Michelle Monaghan), who is vacationing with her family. Miranda and Eddie hit it off immediately, but Eddie never reveals that he's a married man. At the same time, he completely ignores Lila while pursuing Miranda. Once Eddie's secret is out, however, he has a whole lot of explaining to do.
Ben Stiller (A Night at the Museum) has a knack for playing a nitwit, and he's just as annoying and frustrating here as Eddie. There's enough vulnerability in his character to make us at least empathize with his situation, but there's so much to dislike about the character and his action that Stiller's performance doesn't help. As the object of Eddie's affection, Michelle Monaghan (Mission Impossible III) plays the "straight role" well. Despite a few goofy scenes, Monaghan exudes enough girl-next-door charm to win Stiller's and the audiences' hearts.
Malin Akerman (The Brothers Solomon) impresses as perfect woman from Hell. Even though her character is an exaggeration and caricature, Akerman somehow adds layers and depth. Jerry Stiller (Hairspray), Ben Stiller's real dad, plays Eddie's horndog father mainly for laughs -- who doesn't want to see an 80-year-old man get naked with a well-endowed female? Carlos Mencia (Drawn Together) plays a stereotypical Mexican as Uncle Tito -- the character is half-drawn and rather repulsive. Rob Corddry (I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry) is funny as Eddie's "conscience," who happens to be miserable in his own marriage.
Loosely based on the Neil Simon's original, the Farrelly brothers (Fever Pitch) take a lot of creative license and instill much of their brand of crude humor in the script. Not as raunchy as There's Something About Mary and not as sincere as Fever Pitch, the script feels half-baked. The jokes are not always funny, and the characters are irritating. Granted, I give them credit for not making Lila a complete psycho -- despite her flaws, she is actually endearing for being honest and genuine, unlike the deceptive nature of Stiller's character. The problem is that as a comedy, the script feels forced and uneven. There are some hilarious and gross-out moments, and definitely not politically correct. On the other hand, much of the film feels dull.
The biggest flaw is that even as a comedy, there should be some kind of character growth. Knocked Up, for example, is a comedy with a good heart and at the end, the characters grow up. Not so in The Heartbreak Kid. At the end, Eddie is still the same and we can't help but feel frustrated.
Technically the film also feels uneven. Part of the movie drags incessantly, and the jokes fall flat. The amount of sensible humor and crude jokes seem out of balance, and the effect is jarring. One gross-out moment that resembles the famous "frank and beans" in There's Something About Mary feels out of place.
Certainly, The Heartbreak Kid is not a complete waste of time, but given the choice, I don't think Neil Simon would be heartbroken to find out we prefer his film to the Farrelly brothers'.
Stars: Ben Stiller, Michelle Monaghan, Jerry Stiller, Malin Akerman, Carlos Mencia, Rob Corddry
Directors: Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly
Writers: Scot Armstrong, Leslie Dixon, Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly, Kevin Barnett (based on Bruce Jay Friedman's short story and Neil Simon's original screenplay)
MPAA Rating: R for strong sexual content, crude humor and language
Running Time: 115 Minutes
Script – 5
Performance – 6
Direction – 7
Cinematography – 7
Editing – 6
Production – 7
Total – 6.2 out of 10