DVD - Image B- Sound A- Extras B
BD - Image A Sound A- Extras B
starring Ben Stiller, Michelle Monaghan, Malin Akerman, Rob Corddry
screenplay by Scot Armstrong and Leslie Dixon and Bobby Farrelly & Peter Farrelly & Kevin Barnett, based on the short story "A Change of Plan" by Bruce Jay Friedman
directed by Peter Farrelly & Bobby Farrelly
by Walter Chaw Elaine May used to be the comedy writing and performing partner of Mike Nichols, and because I like her 1972 film The Heartbreak Kid so much, I've always wondered how much better The Graduate would have been had May directed it. Indeed, a May-helmed Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? could be excruciating--well, more so. For a while, anyway, May was the brave one, ethnically and otherwise, and I don't know of many people who could've turned the premise that drives the original The Heartbreak Kid into such a delicate, even sensitive (certainly human) piece. If it were going to be remade (and it has, with Ben Stiller in the Charles Grodin role and Malin Akerman in the Jeannie Berlin role), Peter and Bobby Farrelly would seem to be the right ones for the job.
Looking back, The Heartbreak Kid, with its only blameless character an awkward naïf, is almost a Farrelly movie already; and I have a strong affection for the brothers' pictures: they're vulgar, but they're kind. Sad to report that with their version of The Heartbreak Kid, they've begun imitating their chief imitator, Judd Apatow: still vulgar, but sappy now instead of kind. Worse, it's unkind, too. Of all their films, this is the first that feels mean-spirited and low-aiming. Not entirely unlike Paul Feig's choices with Unaccompanied Minors, these champions of the underdog, of the deformed and the pathetic, have made a swimsuit model and former coke addict into the awkward nebbish (no sympathy there) and the luminescent Michelle Monaghan into the no-brainer second choice. Unmoored from their bedrock of affinity for the disenfranchised, the Farrellys' weaknesses--their inability to end a movie without drifting into bloat (there's a post-credit sequence in this one), and their increasingly laggard way with tempo--are brought into glaring relief.
Successful business owner Eddie (Ben Stiller, looking like a few of his "Ben Stiller Show" characters) falls for leggy "environmental researcher" Lila (Akerman) through a standard "meet-cute" and decides, on something of a whim, to marry her and drive down to Mexico for their honeymoon. Along the way, he realizes he doesn't like that she sings along to songs on the car radio, is kind of stupid, and enjoys rough, acrobatic sex. More, she has a deviated septum from doing a lot of cocaine, and so various items occasionally spew out of her nose. Once Lila has incapacitated herself by marinating in the Mexican sun, Eddie turns his attentions to wooing breathtaking Miranda (Monaghan) and her gaggle of backwoods Mississippi kin, who happen to be vacationing at the same resort as the happy couple. Robbing Miranda of the same crippling "gorsh" accent as her family is only one of a dozen choices completely at odds with the Farrellys' established sensibilities. Of course he doesn't tell her that he's married before she finds out for herself, of course hilarious misunderstandings occur, of course there's the public self-humiliation, and of course there's the standard resolution. The sugar-mouthed old coot is Eddie's dad (Jerry Stiller), who earns musty sidekick points for coining the phrase "pussy crushing"; the white male antagonist is cousin Martin (Danny R. McBride); and the wacky married best friend is Mac (Rob Corddry).
A sex scene ending with one of the best comic stings in recent memory serves as both the highlight of the picture and, at around the halfway point, the moment after which The Heartbreak Kid loses whatever momentum it had, sitting there inert until the inevitable rom-com resolution. That said resolution involves an unbilled cameo by Eva Longoria should say everything about the lack of imagination driving the piece. What's not obvious is how angry and ugly the movie is from conception to execution. A lot is lost in jettisoning the Jew/Gentile divide of the original, leaving the film without any cogent tension save the unbecoming baseness of a guy falling out of love with a lunatic dingbat and into love with a perfect vision.
Misanthropic at the least, possibly nihilistic in the wider perspective, The Heartbreak Kid is finally the gross exploitation picture that detractors have accused the Farrellys of perpetrating throughout their career. The gay jokes aren't leavened with humanity anymore, the superficiality of its protagonist is left smugly unresolved, and the suggestion of disability (a rail-bo, a bad sunburn) gets abused to the point of real hatefulness. I can hear the story meetings where the idea of the hero falling love with the virginal Jewish girl instead of Cybill Shepherd is tossed around--but Monaghan is nobody's idea of second helpings, robbing the film of not only the pathos of Eddie dumping a poor, graceless soul with good intentions for a status symbol, but also the righteousness of Eddie leaving a Greek goddess to cast his lot with a poor, graceless soul. Its only wit is the inventiveness of some of the profanity--a CGI-enhanced bush and a lot of pointless slapstick and uninspired cruelty just don't cut it. I was looking forward to this one (even after Fever Pitch); what a heartbreaker. Originally published: September 28, 2007.
by Bill Chambers DreamWorks ushers The Heartbreak Kid to DVD in a moderately disappointing 2.42:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation. Much too much edge-enhancement has been applied to the image, precluding any chance of the movie ever looking gratifyingly film-like. It's a shame because other aspects of the transfer--colour, contrast, shadow detail--are spot-on. The accompanying DD 5.1 audio is, as expected, nothing radical, but everything's clear as a bell. What's not expected is how listenable a commentary the Farrelly Brothers have recorded for a change: their compulsive urge to trainspot friends and family making onscreen cameos deserts them pretty quickly this time around, and for once they settle into a groove of discussing the film at hand. (Too bad it's this film.) Interesting segues abound, including brief mention of second-unit director J.B. Rogers, who helmed American Pie 2 but despite that movie's impressive grosses could not, for whatever reason, line up another high-profile gig thereafter. Swedish-Canadian actress Malin Akerman and the hotel where The Heartbreak Kid was shot are paid every compliment in the book, while the Farrellys' interest in remaking a self-described classic is carefully rationalized, although I have a hunch they originally intended to cast someone less explicitly beautiful than Michelle Monaghan as Akerman's foil. Anyway, good yakker.
Also on board are four featurettes. "The Farrelly Brothers: In the French Tradition" (17 mins.) offers a kind of origin story for the pair, who were businessmen (Bobby patented the circular beach towel) before breaking into the film industry. The title of the piece isn't just a cheap joke, by the by, since it refers to The Heartbreak Kid's graphic sex scenes--something you rarely see in comedies outside of those made in France. Next, "Ben and Jerry" (5 mins.) is a fairly predictable father-son lovefest between co-stars Ben and Jerry Stiller, while "Heartbreak Halloween" (3 mins.) and "Egg Toss" (8 mins.) cover the ice-breaking competitions that were held on set--which, in the case of the latter, may have had a detrimental impact on the film in the long run, as according to Peter egg tosses often took precedence over getting the last shot of the day right. A lame gag reel (4 mins.) and six deleted scenes (totalling 7 minutes) round out the special features; nothing noteworthy among the elisions save an earlier introduction to the character of Cal, whose skydiving entrance--leading to a Zaphod Beeblebrox tableau you gotta see to understand--is actually pretty damn funny. "Previews" for Stardust, Hot Rod, "Mind of Mencia", Drillbit Taylor, and Into the Wild round out the disc, the last two cuing up on startup. Originally published: December 24, 2007.
THE BLU-RAY DISC
by Bill Chambers I want to echo DVDBeaver's recent sentiments that Paramount has pulled up the rear to become a leading producer of catalogue titles for the next-gen market, just in terms of their transfers. I'm sure no one would've blinked twice if they hadn't, but the studio opted to re-encode The Heartbreak Kid for BD, scrapping the smaller file they used for the well-received HD-DVD--and the result, averaging a bitrate of 45 mbps, is sort of breathtaking if you can get past the moral ugliness of the piece. It's like looking through the viewfinder at times, and my only gripe is that the colours are tilted too far towards the magenta end of the spectrum, costing flesh tones and reds the same naturalism afforded the rest of the 2.40:1, 1080p image. The accompanying 5.1 Dolby TrueHD track isn't nearly as revelatory, though, and the DVD's supplements have all been ported over in standard definition save the film's trailer, which gets bumped up to HiDef. Originally published: December 15, 2008.