. . . Of The Achy, Break-y Kind -- And Offensively So Movie Review: "The Heartbreak Kid"

By Omar P.L. Moore/October 5, 2007

Will the real wife please stand up (and stop laughing)?  Ben Stiller as Eddie, with Malin Akerman as Lila, but he is more than happy with Michelle Monaghan (right), as Miranda.  (Photo: Zade Rosenthal/Dreamworks Pictures)

Billy Ray Cyrus had a smash "crossover" hit with the song "Achy Breaky Heart" several years ago, a catchy (some would say corny) tune that had people singing or humming along when the need arose.  In contrast, the latest Bobby & Peter Farrelly movie, "The Heartbreak Kid" (in theaters across North America today), plays two hours of very sour notes, running around in circles, desperately chasing its own celluloid tail for laughs.  And while there are a few laughs and occasional entertainment (for all of one or two minutes), the Farrelly Brothers' "comedy" is a long, tired exercise routine, repeatedly going for the same punch line, the same laugh line, the same easy targets and stereotypes to make "fun" of (Mexicans, American southerners, the elderly, the demanding wife, obese women, blonde-haired women, gays) -- and fails miserably on all counts.

Ben Stiller is Eddie, a sporting goods store owner in San Francisco who has the same kind of luck with women that Chuck (played by Dane Cook) had in last month's disastrous "Good Luck Chuck", except Eddie isn't necessarily a good luck charm for women as much as he is a bad luck charm for himself.  He has a cantankerous dad (real-life dad Jerry Stiller) who is foul-mouthed and blunt in the same way Alan Arkin's Oscar-winning Grandpa was in last year's "Little Miss Sunshine".  Eddie has an ex-fiance who has shacked up with his best friend Mac (Rob Corddry) and Eddie doesn't know from which direction love will come next.  He has a random encounter with Lila (Malin Akerman) on Hyde Street in San Francisco (and the aforementioned street name is not an accident where Lila is concerned -- the intersecting street on which they meet should have been renamed Jekyll.)  In the time it takes to say "hocus pocus", the lovelorn Eddie and the desperate Lila have tied the knot.

"The Heartbreak Kid" also takes place in Cabo, Mexico, and while the locales are good, the content is ugly.  (Capitalize that "u".)  Uncle Tito (Carlos Mencia) is a stereotypical and racist view of a Mexican -- and like Eddie Murphy's characters in the dreaded "Norbit", Tito is an incarnation that appeals to the fears of those in the audience who feel comfortable laughing away their own racist prejudices with 400 of their closest strangers in a movie theater auditorium.  Of course, by the time Eddie realizes that marrying Lila has been a big mistake, he has already fallen for Miranda (Michelle Monaghan of "M:i:III"), a woman so beautiful, smart and charismatic that she still manages to be single(!), on a family reunion and renewal of marriage vows in Cabo.  Having said that, almost all the characters in the film are shallow and brainless, and Ms. Akerman plays the one-note nutcase (with not even a hint of ambiguity or a shred of intrigue, even in a lame-brained comedy -- so why is it that Eddie still isn't smart enough to realize that Lila is wrong until it is too late?)  Strangely enough, Eddie confides to Mac that he doesn't want to rush into anything -- but being lonely will inevitably do that to you.  Even so, "The Heartbreak Kid" is an exhausting heartbreak, one where the viewer is pained not at the experiences of Eddie, Lila and Miranda, but at the time that the viewer is wasting on such a tasteless exercise.  (Unless you're a 15-year-old, no, 17-year-old male.)

A Farrelly Brothers movie wouldn't be complete without the customary bodily fluid expulsion, and some in the audience will be "riveted" to watch fluids flowing from one of the participants in this wretched affair.  At this point, a few questions beg to be asked: did the Farrellys take a vacation when filming this movie?  When co-writing it?  Did they take two vacations?  More?  They have cultivated much fresher, funnier and more interesting material ("There's Something About Mary" and "Shallow Hal"), but with "Heartbreak" they appear to have been lazy and out of ideas.  Granted, they wrote the film with three other screenwriters, Scot Armstrong and Leslie Dixon (with Kevin Barnett as part of the Farrelly writing team), but all five of them have one thing in common: they have made a poisonous hash brown out of Bruce Jay Friedman's short story "A Change Of Plan", from which Neil Simon's 1972 screenplay was devised.  Mr. Simon has been a prolific screenwriter and playwright; and it is a shame that the Brothers Farrelly didn't pay him the proper respect.

"The Heartbreak Kid" will be a heartbreaking waste of your two hours.  Unlike the film's ad campaign, love doesn't hurt, but watching this film will, even if you'll get a laugh or three out of it.

"The Heartbreak Kid" is rated R (for racist?) by the Motion Picture Association of America, for strong sexual content, crude humor and language.  The film's duration is one hour and 55 minutes (but why??)

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