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The Films of the Farrelly Brothers

Dumb & Dumber (November 14/14)

Peter and Bobby Farrelly's debut, Dumb & Dumber casts Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels as Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne - a pair of dunderheaded best friends who set out to return a briefcase to a beautiful heiress (Lauren Holly's Mary Swanson). It's clear immediately that the Farrellys, working from a screenplay cowritten by Bennett Yellin, have set out to accomplish nothing more than the creation of agreeably silly little comedy, with the movie's pervasively affable atmosphere perpetuated by Carrey and Daniels' consistently engaging work. The chemistry between the performers certainly heightens the movie's irresistibly likeable feel, and it's worth noting, too, that although they're playing idiots, Carrey and Daniels manage to transform Lloyd and Harry into (relatively) believable figures (ie there are moments of emotion here that ring surprisingly true). It doesn't hurt, either, that Dumb & Dumber is packed with laugh-out-loud funny bits of comedy, as the Farrellys have packed the proceedings with a number of hilarious stupid jokes and gags (eg Lloyd's now-infamous "most annoying sound in the world" bit). The film's decidedly episodic does, however, ensure that it possesses a rather erratic feel, with the movie's uneven vibe compounded by a running time that's at least 15 minutes too long. Still, Dumb & Dumber generally lives up to its reputation as a modern classic of the comedy genre - with the movie ranking at the top of the Farrelly brothers' incredibly uneven filmography.

out of

Kingpin (November 17/14)

Kingpin follows former pro bowler Roy Munson (Woody Harrelson) as he convinces an Amish man (Randy Quaid's Ishmael) to join him on the road, with the movie eventually building to a climactic confrontation between Roy and his old nemesis, Ernie McCracken (Bill Murray). It's an appealing premise that's employed to seriously erratic effect by Peter and Bobby Farrelly, as Kingpin seems to contain an equal number of entertaining and superfluous sequences - which naturally results in a lack of momentum that only grows more and more problematic as time progresses. There's little doubt, however, that Kingpin does boast a handful of agreeable elements, with the various performances standing as an obvious (and ongoing) highlight in the proceedings. Harrelson's go-for-broke turn as the pathetic yet affable Roy Munson remains a source of consistent amusement here, while Murray delivers a typically scene-stealing turn as the sleazy, obnoxious Ernie McCracken. (This is to say nothing of the stellar work turned in by folks like Lin Shaye, Vanessa Angel, and Quaid.) And although Barry Fanaro and Mort Nathan's script admittedly does possess a handful of amusing moments, Kingpin is, to an increasingly distressing extent, saddled with a padded-out vibe that's compounded by a distinct lack of laughs - with the movie building to a completely tedious showdown between Harrelson and Murray's respective characters (which is, in turn, followed by a hopelessly anticlimactic final stretch). The end result is a pervasively uneven comedy that just isn't able to overcome its various deficiencies, which is too bad, really, given the strength of its premise and performances.

out of

There's Something About Mary (October 5/07)

Though affable and entertaining for a while, There's Something About Mary - saddled with a ridiculously overlong running time - eventually morphs into a tedious and downright interminable piece of work. It's a shame, really, as the movie does include a number of genuinely hilarious sequences and a thoroughly charismatic performance from Cameron Diaz; such elements are in addition to the now-infamous opening gag, which remains one of the most cringeworthy moments in cinematic history. The plot follows a young man (Ben Stiller's Ted) as he decides to look up his high school sweetheart (Diaz's Mary); problems emerge after a private investigator (Matt Dillon's Pat) decides that he wants a shot at Mary, too. Filmmakers Peter and Bobby Farrelly have infused the early part of There's Something About Mary with an appropriately lighthearted sensibility, ensuring that - for a while, anyway - the movie can't help but come off as a delightfully breezy example of the romcom genre. Yet there reaches a point at which the brothers - clearly desperate to sustain the film's bloated length - start emphasizing needless subplots and characters, culminating with an utterly disastrous third act that just seems to go on and on (and on). Despite the movie's rampantly uneven vibe, however, There's Something About Mary is ultimately redeemed by the affable performances and inclusion of several laugh-out-loud moments (ie Dillon's Pat, in an effort to win Mary's affections, poorly attempts to ape her compassion for the handicapped by referring to them as "retards" and "goofy bastards").

out of

Me, Myself & Irene

Osmosis Jones (April 5/02)

Based solely on the promotional materials, it's hard not to expect big things from Osmosis Jones - with Bill Murray's mere presence seemingly assuring big laughs. The trailer opened with an inexplicable sequence that features Murray fighting with a zoo monkey over an egg and eventually eating said egg - after the monkey had put it in it's mouth and it had fallen to the ground. That fantastically absurd scene is sadly not indicative of the entire film, as the bulk of Osmosis Jones occurs within Murray's body - where an entire population lives and works. Our hero, the titular Jones, is a white blood cell cop who's begrudgingly partnered with a cold pill named Drix. The two work to find and destroy the virus that's infesting Murray's body, before it destroys Jones' entire civilization and way of life. It's a unique premise and the way the film treats it is (for a while) quite interesting. All the usual buddy-cop cliches are here, which does initially provide some amusement but the whole thing eventually becomes bogged down in its own plot. Still, the live-action stuff with Murray is amusing, and the animated sequences are basically entertaining, so it's not a complete waste of time.

out of

Shallow Hal

Stuck on You (December 11/03)

Admittedly, Stuck on You's got a great premise. Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear play conjoined twins named Bo and Walt that are attached at the hip and have brilliantly adapted to their predicament. And who else but the Farrelly brothers (Peter and Bobby) would have the courage to take such a whacked concept and turn it into a mainstream, PG-13 film? Though the film remains entertaining for a little while, primarily through the enthusiasm of the performers, the film eventually becomes the same sort of typically dull Farrelly brothers comedy most folks lap up willingly. But the movie's lack of a storyline eventually catches up with it, with plot replaced by seemingly neverending vignettes (ie Bo and Walt go on a double date). And without getting into spoiler territory, the story goes exactly where you might think. Of course, none of these debits would've been all that noticeable had the movie been funny. But it's not; there are, maybe, one or two laughs to be had. The problem is the Farrelly's throw Bo and Walt into the most obvious of situations - Walt performs a one-man play with Bo limping nervously next to him, etc - which might provoke a smile, but nothing beyond that. With a running time of close to two hours, the film goes on much longer than it has any right to; somewhere around the 90-minute mark it stops being pleasantly diverting and turns into an overlong bore. Stuck on You is the sort of movie that'll work a whole lot better on the small screen, as the Farrelly's penchant for choosing mediocre pop songs and less-than-impressive visual style will probably be less glaring there.

out of

Fever Pitch (April 6/05)

Because it's a romantic comedy, Fever Pitch contains all of the plot points one expects out of the genre - including the overused and entirely unnecessary fake breakup - yet the film remains entertaining, primarily because it uses such cliches well (something that's not as easy as it looks, ie Hitch). The film - which follows two mismatched characters (Jimmy Fallon's Ben and Drew Barrymore's Lindsay) as they attempt to find love - has been directed by Peter and Bobby Farrelly, and although it's not their funniest film, this is certainly their most involving and mature work to date. Working from a script by Babaloo Mandel and Lowell Ganz, the Farrelly brothers imbue Fever Pitch with an laid-back sort of vibe that suits the material perfectly - and though the filmmakers occasionally threaten to overload the viewer with obscure baseball references, it never quite reaches that point (it does seem obvious, however, that one's enjoyment of the film will rise exponentially according to one's familiarity with Red Sox lore). Of course, with a romantic comedy, casting is incredibly important; the viewer's willingness to overlook the inherently cliched aspects of the genre depends entirely on the likability of the two leads. Barrymore has already proven herself to be ideally suited for this type of tale, having appeared in similar films such as Never Been Kissed and 50 First Dates. The actress is, not surprisingly, quite charming as Lindsay, infusing the character with the sort of effervescence she's become known for. Fallon, on the other hand, thankfully tones down the flamboyant tendencies that were on display in last year`s disastrous Taxi, delivering an extremely engaging performance that makes it almost impossible not to root for Lindsay and Ben to make it as a couple (even through some of Ben's more absurdly obsessive moments). As a feel-good romance, Fever Pitch undoubtedly excels. Barrymore and Fallon have genuine chemistry with one another, while the Farrelly brothers do a nice job of keeping the film's tone light and breezy (up until the third act, anyway).

out of

The Heartbreak Kid (October 4/07)

It's not much of a stretch to label The Heartbreak Kid the most ineffective and flat-out dull effort from the Farrelly brothers, as the film - though cute and pleasant enough in its opening half hour - is almost entirely devoid of jokes that work or characters that are even remotely interesting. A remake of the 1972 Elaine May comedy of the same name, The Heartbreak Kid casts Ben Stiller as Eddie Cantrow - a 40-year-old bachelor who impulsively marries a beautiful professional (Malin Akerman's Lila) and slowly-but-surely discovers that his new bride is essentially a complete nightmare. The film's incredibly repetitive structure - much of the second act follows Eddie as he makes one horrifying discovery about Lila after another - is exacerbated by the dearth of laughs, with exceedingly few of the Farrellys' patented gross-out gags managing to elicit even a chuckle from the viewer (and unlike their previous efforts, such shenanigans just feel desperate this time around). The subplot revolving around Eddie's would-be relationship with a fellow vacationer (Michelle Monaghan's Miranda) doesn't fare much better, as the character has been idealized to the point of absurdity (ie she doesn't seem to possess any flaws). And, of course, Miranda remains in the dark regarding Eddie's marriage for an unreasonably prolonged amount of time - ensuring that even the most dunderheaded viewer will be able to anticipate the requisite fake break-up (that said fake break-up seems to last for a third of the film's running time certainly doesn't help matters). Stiller's charismatic performance notwithstanding, The Heartbreak Kid comes off as an interminable and shockingly unfunny piece of work that has little to offer even the most ardent fan of the Farrelly brothers.

out of

Hall Pass (February 24/11)

Though The Heartbreak Kid seemed to mark an obvious low point for the Farrelly brothers, Hall Pass ultimately manages to surpass its immediate predecessor in terms of negative attributes - as the film primarily comes off as an unfunny, aggressively desperate, and flat-out boring comedy that cements the filmmaking siblings' complete and total irrelevance. The movie, which follows two sleazy friends (Owen Wilson's Rick and Jason Sudeikis' Fred) as they receive permission from their long-suffering wives (Jenna Fischer's Maggie and Christina Applegate's Grace) to cheat during a one-week period, has been suffused with a sitcom-like feel that's evident in everything from the rote performances to the puerile screenplay to the flat visuals, with the eye-rollingly simplistic treatment of the various characters - ie men are pigs and women are shrill harpies - immediately establishing a lowest-common-denominator-type atmosphere that persists right through to the unjustifiably sentimental finish. Hall Pass' many, many problems are exacerbated by its astonishing lack of laughs, as the Farrellys offer up one hopelessly misguided comedic set-piece after another (ie Fred picks up a girl with explosive diarrhea) - which certainly proves effective in establishing and perpetuating the film's aggressively interminable feel. The end result is a pathetically misguided and pervasively low-rent endeavor that has little to offer even the most open-minded of viewers, and it's ultimately rather difficult to believe that the movie is from the same two men responsible for such bona fide comedy classics as Dumb and Dumber and Kingpin.

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The Three Stooges (April 17/12)

A miscalculation of near epic proportions, The Three Stooges follows the title characters (Chris Diamantopoulos' Moe, Will Sasso's Curly, and Sean Hayes' Larry) as they embark on a quest to raise $830,000 to save their beloved orphanage - with their efforts eventually bringing them in contact with a slinky femme fatale (Sofia Vergara's Lydia), her inept lover (Craig Bierko's Mac), and the cast of Jersey Shore. It's clear immediately that filmmakers Peter and Bobby Farrelly aren't looking to reinvent the wheel here, as the movie, for the most part, presents the Stooges as they've always been - which, while admirable in its way, ultimately highlights just how irrelevant these characters have become in the decades since their 1934 debut. There is, as such, little doubt that The Three Stooges has been suffused with one stale, hopelessly unfunny bit after another, with the movie's almost shocking dearth of laughs effectively highlighting the various deficiencies within the Farrellys' pervasively lackluster screenplay. (It is, for example, difficult to see the humor in an obnoxiously prolonged sequence involving baby urine.) And although Diamantopoulos, Sasso, and Hayes are fine and competent in their respective roles, The Three Stooges, which eventually morphs into a fairly intolerable and endless piece of work, utterly fails in its efforts at bringing the Stooges into the 21st century and it's finally impossible to envision even their most ardent fans finding much here worth embracing.

out of

Dumb and Dumber To (November 14/14)

Sporadically affable but mostly pointless, Dumb and Dumber To follows best friends Harry (Jeff Daniels) and Lloyd (Jim Carrey) as they embark on a road trip to track down Harry's adult daughter (Rachel Melvin's Penny). It's clear immediately that filmmakers Peter and Bobby Farrelly are simply unable to replicate the low-key charm of 1994's Dumb and Dumber, as the sequel, though watchable, suffers from an almost relentlessly over-the-top feel that drains the viewer's interest to an increasingly problematic degree - with the movie's underwhelming atmosphere perpetuated by a curious absence of laughs. (There are, all told, perhaps two or three moments that manage to elicit a solid chuckle.) It's ultimately clear that Carrey and Daniels' ineffective work lies at the heart of Dumb and Dumber To's failure, as the two actors are simply unable to convincingly step back into the shoes of their iconic characters (ie these hardly seem like the same figures that effortlessly romped through the original film). And while there are a few amusing moments sprinkled throughout the movie's overlong running time, Dumb and Dumber To has been hard-wired with an air of desperation that proves more and more difficult to overlook - with the film's growing emphasis on a tedious crime-oriented subplot, presumably included to echo to the original's kidnapping narrative, only compounding the progressively lackluster atmosphere. The end result is a typically irrelevant comedy sequel that abandons almost everything that worked in its predecessor, which is a shame, really, given the enduring success of the thoroughly enjoyable first film.

out of

© David Nusair