Bobby and Peter Farrelly peaked in 1998 with "There's Something About Mary." It's been a question of diminishing returns for the brothers ever since, and their latest effort, "Stuck on You," hits a new low. A one-joke affair about conjoined twins, the comedy remains unfunny despite the strained efforts of stars Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear.

A correction was made to this review on Dec. 16, 2003.

Bobby and Peter Farrelly peaked in 1998 with “There’s Something About Mary,” arguably the zenith of the gross-out comedies they helped popularize. It’s been a question of diminishing returns for the brothers ever since, and their latest effort, “Stuck on You,” hits a new low. A one-joke affair about conjoined twins that feels like it bypassed the scripting stage and was filmed directly from the pitch, the comedy remains resoundingly unfunny despite the strained efforts of stars Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear. Fox release seems unlikely to stick much beyond the initial flurry of loyal Farrelly fans.

In “Mary,” the Farrellys had the perfect appealing ditz in the driver’s seat in Cameron Diaz. And they scored box office points from the star wattage of Jim Carrey in “Me Myself & Irene” and the oddball pairing of Gwyneth Paltrow and Jack Black in “Shallow Hal.”

The Damon-Kinnear team has less to recommend it. Kinnear seems a little more at ease piloting this type of sophomoric romp than Damon, who wasn’t exactly born for comedy. But neither actor makes much of an impression in what’s essentially a quirky gimmick with a potential for more inventive comedy that remains untapped.

The laughs, such as they are, come primarily from situations in which the conjoined bodies of the two adult brothers — attached at the hip since birth — are divided: Walt (Kinnear) showers while Bob (Damon) stands outside in a raincoat; Walt has sex with a woman while Bob reads a magazine; Walt boards a bus while Bob gets caught in the retractable doors. Slapstick moments like these feel like they were hatched during a not especially inspired sitcom ideas session.

The conjoined twins (“We’re not Siamese, we’re American”) live on Martha’s Vineyard, where they run a burger joint. Sweet and simple Bob is content to play ice hockey, while womanizing Walt wants to be an actor. While the brothers have considered surgical separation, Bob has most of their shared liver and refuses to undergo the operation, which could put Walt’s life at risk.

Walt’s acting ambitions take them to Hollywood, where they hook up with low-rent agent Morty (Seymour Cassel). They befriend class-free actress April (Eva Mendes), and Bob begins a timid romance with former email-sweetheart May (Wen Yann Shih), who fails to notice the brothers’ fleshy connection (an exceedingly sloppy bit of prosthetic work).

By chance, the brothers meet Cher (one of several stars appearing as themselves), who wants out of an unbreakable contract for action-lawyer TV series “Honey and the Beaze.” She casts Walt to sabotage the show, but the studio — Fox, of course — calls her bluff and cranks up production. The series becomes an unexpected hit, making Walt an unlikely star.

Walt’s newfound exposure and Bob’s more retiring nature finally prompt them to submit to the surgeon’s knife. But rather than introducing health complications or emotional detachment anxiety, the radical step serves mainly to facilitate more facile jokes and problems realigning their motor skills. Even less so than they did with schizophrenia in “Me Myself & Irene” or with obesity in “Shallow Hal,” the Farrellys have little interest in anything beyond the most obvious, labored sight gags offered by the conjoined twin scenario.

Some minor enjoyment comes from watching Cher having fun in a self-deprecating, diva tantrum-prone turn. Other names that show up briefly include Luke Wilson, Jay Leno, Farrelly totem Lin Shaye, Griffin Dunne as the TV director and Frankie Muniz in a funny gag given away in the trailer.

Meryl Streep has an extended cameo, appearing in an embarrassing closing number as Walt’s co-star in a Bonnie and Clyde stage musical, undoubtedly a desperate bid to end on a high note. Opening at the same time as Streep’s superb work in HBO’s “Angels in America” is airing, this will have most critics wondering what induced the unbilled actress to participate.

Handicapped cast member Ray “Rocket” Valliere, who plays a burger joint waiter, appears on the end credits to testify to what fun guys the Farrellys are. If this is to convey their supposed sensitivity to the disadvantaged, they needn’t have bothered, as the enterprise is far too doltish even to be offensive. Craft contributions are purely basic; soundtrack is sprinkled with period pop.

Stuck On You

Production

A 20th Century Fox release of a Conundrum Entertainment/Charles B. Wessler production. Produced by Bradley Thomas, Wessler, Peter Farrelly, Bobby Farrelly. Executive producer, Marc S. Fischer. Co-producers, Mark Charpentier, Garrett Grant, Kris Meyer. Directed by Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly. Screenplay, Peter Farrelly, Bobby Farrelly; story, Charles B. Wessler, Bennett Yellin, Peter Farrelly, Bobby Farrelly.

Crew

Camera (FotoKem color, Deluxe prints; Panavision widescreen), Dan Mindel; editors, Christopher Greenbury, Dave Terman; music supervisors, Tom Wolfe, Manish Raval; production designer, Sidney J. Bartholomew; art directors, Arlan Jay Vetter, Richard Fojo; set decorator, Scott Jacobson; costume designer, Deena Appel; sound (Dolby/DTS), Jonathan "Earl" Stein; makeup effects designer, Tony Gardner; choreographer, Adam Shankman; associate producer/assistant director, Hal Joseph Olofsson; casting, Rick Montgomery. Reviewed at AMC Empire 25, New York, Nov. 21, 2003. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 118 MIN.

With

Bob - Matt Damon Walt - Greg Kinnear April - Eva Mendes May - Wen Yann Shih Mimmy - Pat Crawford Brown Rocket - Ray "Rocket" Valliere Tommy - Tommy Songin Moe - Terence Bernie Hines Herself - Cher Howard - Jackie Flynn Morty O'Reilly - Seymour Cassel

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