A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this hard-R comedy about a man who pursues another woman three days into his marriage (and doesn't seem to see a problem in that) will appeal to teens who love the Farrelly brothers and Ben Stiller, but the material is decidedly adult. There's enough sexual banter and outright nudity to make anyone blush: A couple is shown a number of times in non-traditional positions, with the woman shouting out orders about what the man should do to pleasure her; a man is said to have placed a married woman's hand on his genitals; a septuagenarian is shown in a hot tub with a much younger woman, with her massively implanted breasts bobbing in the water; etc.. Plus, there's profanity galore (from the usual suspects like "f--k" and "s--t" to some pretty imaginative combinations of those two and lots of their buddies), lots of drinking, and a pot-smoking scene.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In the Farrelly brothers' remake of Elaine May's 1972 film, San Francisco sporting-goods-store owner Eddie Cantrow (Ben Stiller) is 40 and single and desperately lonely. After attending his ex-fiancée's wedding, he's goaded into throwing caution into the wind and marries Lila (Malin Akerman), a stunning environmentalist he meets while trying to stop a mugger who steals her purse. But while on their honeymoon in Mexico, Eddie realizes that Lila may not be the dream girl he envisioned her to be -- an epiphany that's made more complicated by his growing attraction to Miranda (Michelle Monaghan), a fellow vacationer who may in fact be the true woman of his dreams.
Is it any good?
On its own merits, The Heartbreak Kid is an entertaining-enough comedy, with a decent dose of laughs. Silly/extreme sight gags are particularly plentiful. But the film can't be judged purely on its own merits, because it's a remake. While the Farrellys have changed their version enough to make it different, they chose not to change the title -- and maybe they should have, because their film just doesn't compare to the 1972 version. Whereas the original was layered, the new movie stays as close to the surface as can be, content to make viewers laugh not at the human condition but at whatever gross-out moment is unwinding onscreen. A crucial scene in which the husband breaks off with his new bride -- which put the heartbreak in the original film -- lacks punch here, diluted with yet another gag. And while May's movie ends on a wistful, almost painful note that immediately shifts everything that came before it into brilliance; the Farrellys just try to get away with one more joke (bitter as it may be).
All of that said, the new Heartbreak Kid does have Stiller, who rises to the occasion once more, never overplaying a scene; the same is true for his dad, Jerry Stiller, who plays Eddie's pervy-but-supportive father in the movie. (Akerman seems to be channeling Cameron Diaz, to some success, and Monaghan's passable.) Still, the Stillers alone aren't enough to buoy this film to There's Something About Mary greatness. Since that movie was released in 1998, Judd Apatow has arrived on the scene and, in a way, proceeded to out-Farrelly the Farrellys. Maybe that's part of the problem. When the big moment (involving a Man o' War and a bodily function) arrives in the end, we're not shocked enough. Nor are we laughing out loud.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why comedies like this one seem to target younger viewers (particularly teens), even though much of the subject matter skews older. Teens: Why do you want to see this movie? What makes these "over the top" comedies funny? (Or, if you're not a fan, what makes them unfunny?) Are the extreme sight gags necessary? Or have we become used to them and therefore immune to their impact? Is that good or bad? Families can also discuss who exactly the movie is making fun of -- is it just Ben Stiller's character, or men in general? What of the women -- do they fare any better in the gender wars?
- In theaters: October 4, 2007
- On DVD or streaming: December 26, 2007
- Cast: Ben Stiller, Jerry Stiller, Michelle Monaghan
- Directors: Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 116 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong sexual content, crude humor, language, and a scene of drug use involving a minor.