Directed by Peter and Bobby Farrelly
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 anamorphic
Running Time: 115 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, French, Spanish
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Release Date: December 26, 2007
Review Date: December 17, 2007
Elaine May’s 1972 filming of The Heartbreak Kid was a charming, bittersweet love story beautifully told (script by Neil Simon). Peter and Bobby Farrelly have taken that basic plot and added their customarily modernized spin using assorted bodily functions and creative sexual positions which have systematically removed the charm and upped the farce element in making this new version of The Heartbreak Kid. As a comedy, it has its moments, and there are enough zany characters floating around the film to keep things jumping, but the new version is not a patch on the old one.
Eddie Cantrow (Ben Stiller) is constantly ragged on by friends and family that at age 40 he needs to get married. Meeting cute with blonde environmentalist Lila (Malin Akerman) when she’s mugged on the street, he rushes through a whirlwind courtship and marries her only to find she’s not at all what he thought her to be. On his three week honeymoon in Mexico and completely disillusioned with Lila, he meets the genuinely sweet and stable Miranda (Michelle Monaghan) and falls instantly in love. Pursuing one woman while trying the placate the other until he can sort things out, Eddie digs hole after hole for himself to fall in. The audience’s only question is how long will it be until the big revelation to both women and how far and how hard will Eddie fall?
Ben Stiller can be an effective comic actor, and he’s a past master with the comedy of humiliation and embarrassment (see his films as Greg Focker for reference), but despite the solid plot of the original story, his work seems a tired riff on what he’s done before. He goes along good naturedly with all of the poop, fart, snot, and bestiality jokes that the Farrelly Brothers ladle on the proceedings, but I still got feelings of déjà vu while watching this, and not because I had seen the original film but because Stiller’s work seemed so similar to what he’s done (better) before. Malin Akerman makes a grotesque perfect-bride-gone-gonzo while Michelle Monaghan does credible work as the new love interest.
My favorite performers, however, weren’t Jerry Stiller as Eddie’s father whose foul-mouthed humor seemed sour and forced or Carlos Mencia as the practical joking Uncle Tito whose character began well but who quickly wore out his welcome. No, I liked the more subdued playing of Scott Wilson and Polly Holliday as Miranda’s grounded parents and most especially Rob Corddry as Eddie’s henpecked buddy Mac. His mobile facial expressions and the “Miss Gulch” ring tone on his phone when his wife calls gave the film some of its most quietly effective moments.
Five writers have their names attached to the screenplay for this new modernized version of the story, and while the film is loaded with some memorable sight gags (a jellyfish, a sunburn), the wit quotient is woefully lacking. They’ve switched the hair colors of the two women (brunette for the new bride/blonde for the temptress in the original, reversed in the remake), but otherwise, not a lot of better new material has been introduced to the story. The film’s pacing seems lethargic, too, especially in the latter part of the movie. The sequence of Eddie trying to get back across the border in his pursuit of Miranda isn’t particularly funny and goes on too long.
The film’s theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 has been faithfully executed in this excellent anamorphic transfer. Colors are well rendered and flesh tones are very lifelike. Sharpness is surprisingly and consistently good while black levels and shadow detail rise well above average. There is some occasional line twitter in a couple of scenes which prevents the transfer from achieving a perfect video score. The film has been divided into 16 chapters.
Like most comedy soundtracks, the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio mix concentrates on the front soundstage leaving the rear channels for the music which has a great presence in the film. Dialog is rooted to the center channel, but apart from bass in the music, the LFE channel gets little use.
The audio commentary by Peter and Bobby Farrelly is an engaging chitchat between the two brothers. They don’t reveal much about their methods of working, but they do celebrate their cast (down to the extras) and crew and appear to have a great rapport with everyone working on their films. There are a few silent stretches during the conversation.
“The Farrelly Brothers in the French Tradition” is a 16-minute overview of their backgrounds from their youthful pranks and bad business decisions down through getting in the movie business, their script writing methodology, and their love of practical jokes on the set. The featurette is presented in anamorphic widescreen.
“Ben & Jerry” gives us 5 minutes in anamorphic video of father and son Jerry and Ben Stiller working together on the set and comments from each about the other.
“Heartbreak Halloween” details the Halloween costume contest that the Farrelly Brothers initiated on the set when the crew’s spirits were beginning to flag after the lengthy shoot. This 3¼-minute feature is also in anamorphic widescreen.
“The Egg Toss” is another cast and crew bonding exercise that the brothers utilize on their shoots as cast and crew toss eggs to one another from ever-greater distances until one team emerges victorious. This 8-minute featurette is likewise in anamorphic video.
An unexceptional 4-minute gag reel is presented in nonanamorphic letterbox.
Six deleted or extended scenes are likewise presented in nonanamorphic letterbox. The deleted scenes offer nothing of interest, but the extensions of two scenes provide good character information which should have been retained in the finished film. The viewer can watch the scenes separately or play them together for their 7½-minute running time.
Preview trailers are available for Drillbit Taylor, Stardust, Hot Rod, The Mind of Mencia, and Into the Wild.
The Heartbreak Kid underperformed at the box-office this past fall, and the likely reason is that the movie seemed too similar to some other Ben Stiller comedies of confused mortification which had preceded it. This R-rated comedy has some laughs, but you might do better locating the original film for a more enjoyable movie experience.