The Farrelly Bros. make mincemeat of the theory that good movies should never be remade.
With their smart, hilarious update of “The Heartbreak Kid” the Farrelly brothers make mincemeat of the (often correct) theory that good movies should never be remade. Cleverly bending the template of the Neil Simon-penned, Elaine May-helmed 1972 original to their patented brand of profane gagdom, the Farrellys fashion a pitch-perfect riff on the consequences that ensue when getting hitched turns into something out of Hitchcock. Uproarious romp, grounded in believable if gleefully implausible human behavior, is a model of comic timing. Pic world preemed to side-splitting response in Deauville. Box office prospects worldwide look heartbreakingly good.
The original film, inspired by a Bruce Jay Friedman story about a man who falls in love with another woman mere days after his own wedding, saw a secular Jewish sporting goods salesman marrying his stereotypically Jewish girlfriend, only to start longing to jettison her for a very Gentile — and presumably unattainable — blonde beauty while on his honeymoon.
Changing coasts — with New Yorkers honeymooning in Florida shifted to San Franciscans honeymooning in Mexico — helmers make the material their own thanks to screenplay’s bold switch: This time the male protag marries the classy blonde bombshell only to find himself longing for a sporty brunette. Original pic’s subtext about ethnic assimilation and class differences has given way to a sort of vulgarity-with-heart, with pic’s R-rated antics a feast for grown-up eyes and funny bones.
Forty-year-old Eddie (Ben Stiller) endures loving flak from his dad, Doc (Jerry Stiller), about his alleged refusal to get married. Vegas-loving, foul-mouthed Doc (“Been crushing any pussy?”) berates his son for not taking full advantage of his bachelor status to screw his brains out.
Determined to be less coarse than his rambunctious father, (when Eddie tells his dad he’s uncomfortable with constant references to “pussy,” Doc diplomatically offers to discuss “snatch” instead), Eddie is still waiting for the perfect lass.
After Eddie comes to the aid of model-pretty young professional Lila (Malin Akerman) when her purse is snatched a few blocks from the athletic goods emporium he owns on Van Ness Avenue, Eddie is egged on by his dad and his best friend Mac (Rob Corddry) to start dating the unattached looker.
Eddie and Lila tie the knot, mere weeks later. But as they drive to Cabo for their honeymoon, Eddie discovers Lila harbors many idiosyncrasies, none endearing. Lila’s sexual repertoire is a surprise, too, as is a slight structural problem with her nose.
At their idyllic destination, Eddie meets hotel employee “Uncle Tito” (Carlos Mencia), a broad-minded kidder whose commercial acumen is perfectly allied with his understanding of human nature. Eddie has already entertained second, third and fourth thoughts about his stunning bride when she develops a toxic sunburn that confines her to their hotel room.
When Eddie meets fellow guest Miranda (Michelle Monaghan), a breezy jock attending a reunion of her sweetly literal-minded Southern family, their effortless banter convinces him he’s just met the real girl of his dreams.
A comic whirlwind of romantic subterfuge ensues, with Eddie benignly neglecting to tell Miranda or her Mississippi-bred relatives that he’s no longer single. Miranda’s humorless cousin Martin (Danny McBride) occupies the over-my-dead-body slot so indelibly iterated by Eddie Albert as Cybill Shepherd’s no-nonsense WASP dad in the original.
Laughs are literally non-stop as every scene amplifies the obstacles and ups the ante in Eddie’s quest to keep Lila at bay with outlandish fabulations while courting Miranda and endeavoring to charm her family.
Winningly cast thesps give incredibly game, spot-on perfs in the service of explosively funny material; musical score is almost a character unto itself and sun-drenched locations provide perfect visual counterpoint to Eddie’s egregiously slimy juggling act.
A model of intelligent adaptation as well as a free-standing entertainment in its own right, pic sustains a superlative level of comic invention straight through to final frames.