**½/**** Image A- Sound A- Extras B-
starring Matt Damon, Greg Kinnear, Eva Mendes, Wen Yann Shih
screenplay by Peter Farrelly & Bobby Farrelly
directed by Bobby Farrelly & Peter Farrelly
by Walter Chaw It may not be funny in the slightest, but like Shallow Hal, the Farrelly Brothers' Stuck On You is often fascinating for the extent to which it seeks to dissect the exploitation of disability in film. The picture is surprisingly affecting when it's addressing the conjoined twins at its centre, pointing at once to where the Farrellys are headed with their art, and to the realization that where this picture really fails is in the fallacy that it needs to be a comedy at all. (The most glaring gaffe the casting of Cher as herself, a joke as out of tune as it is out of time.) What emerges from the film isn't the sort of scatological brinkmanship the brothers are credited with/derided for, but rather an often sharp examination of identity, the strength of familial bonds, and the courage to dream--elements each to be found woven in some fashion throughout the filmmakers' critically underestimated oeuvre.
Bob (Matt Damon) owns a burger-joint and has crippling stage fright, a malady made ironic by the fact that his conjoined twin Walt (Greg Kinnear) writes and stars in an annual one-man show and has aspirations to move to Hollywood to join the big time. Once in Tinsel Town, the evil Cher (the evil Cher) casts Walt to star opposite her in a dismal network television series with the "Springtime for Hitler"-like idea that it will sink the boat and free her from her contract. (It's a hit, natch.) In the requisite love subplot, Walt meets lingerie model April (Eva Mendes) and Bob meets his years-long internet-buddy, May (Wen Yann Shih).
The conceit is ridiculous from a practical standpoint, but what genuinely compels are the ideas that the Farrellys bring to bear along with the thought that both Damon and Kinnear are best in films (The Bourne Identity, The Talented Mr. Ripley for Damon, Auto-Focus for Kinnear) that establish the actors as the kind of thoughtful, bland-good-looking stock tailor-made for films about amorphous identities and charismatic ciphers. While Bob and Walt are clearly delineated personalities (Bob the virginal, Walt the scabrous), their mused separations, literal and philosophical, are handled with a sort of blunt existential poetry that offers insight into bonds that afford a mirror for identification even as they tie two human beings to one another. Stuck On You is as pleasantly universal in this sense as its title suggests, a picture that mines allegorical depth from its premise in a way that only falters when it goes for the cheap gag.
Though Farrelly hallmarks like featuring disabled actors and the elderly feel forced and perfunctory in a film less surprised by itself, the idea that even gorgeous April is the product of plastic surgery makes Stuck On You something of a modern Freaks: a film about a community of outcasts (and even May's mean ex-boyfriend has hair plugs) who find a level of comfort through acceptance of their shared insecurities and aspirations. On a really basic level, the film is interested in people that are looked at, presented in a medium that invites nothing but voyeurism. The appearance in Stuck On You of two actors who play themselves (Meryl Streep, in on the joke here as in Adaptation.; Cher, Streep's one-time Silkwood co-star, not) takes on a level of added weight in this context, according the inclined the opportunity to discuss the plastic nature of identity for actors and the ways in which some construct artificial mechanisms that become their mutant reality, and others realize at some point in their career that the only tree still bearing fruit is the one of self-knowledge.
At root, the picture isn't about fictions so much as it's about the fear and trembling of individuals forced to recognize themselves as phantom reflections in another's eye. It's a shame, then, that Stuck On You too often finds itself at the mercy of the easy joke and what seems the requisite dashes of musical montage and unnecessary contrivance. Even with its missteps, Stuck On You, taken with Shallow Hal and the Farrellys' best film, There's Something About Mary, provides a cogent argument that the brothers are on their way to fashioning a body of work that is enduring and valuable, and perhaps deserving of recognition as the work of genuine auteurs. Originally published: December 12, 2003.
by Bill Chambers Fox presents Stuck on You on DVD in competing widescreen and fullscreen editions; rather alarmingly, we received a widescreen copy branded fullscreen on the keepcase packaging, although since the studio's pull product is not factory-sealed, it's unlikely this error will reappear at the retail level. As for the disc's tech credentials, the 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer is a fraction less luminous than I would've liked, flattening contrast and shadow detail, but the image has filmlike definition and appealing colours. The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is more active than we've come to expect from a Farrelly Brothers movie, with the music selections generally wrapping around the viewer and the closing song-and-dance number filling the soundstage. LFE usage is not so much mild as authentic, as there's very little narrative cause for booming bass. You may recall that I vowed after the Shallow Hal DVD to never partake in another Farrelly Brothers commentary track again, because all they do is "Where's Waldo?" their friends and relatives; it took exactly two minutes for the pair to turn Stuck on You into glorified vacation slides (no, I don't care what the extra playing the jogger does for a living), and so for the time being I'm keeping my word.
The remaining special features compare favourably. A section of eight deleted scenes (totalling 13 minutes) includes at least one deletion that caps the arc of Greg Kinnear's character more credibly than his 'heartfelt' conversation with Cher in the final film; a far less detrimental loss finds the conjoined twins getting mugged by a black man as soon as they touch down in Los Angeles. Shallow Hal's Rene Kirby, a paraplegic, resurfaces here as a porn star, and speaking of which, "It's Funny: The Farrelly Formula" (16 mins.) touches on the Farrellys penchant for casting the disabled in supporting roles, something I submit is starting to look less noble than fetishistic--not unlike George Lucas's paternalistic benevolence towards little people. Their next film, perhaps inevitably, is set in the world of the Special Olympics.
"Stuck Together: Bringing Stuck on You to the Screen" (13 mins.) is typical making-of fluff, though I was oddly moved to see Meryl Streep interacting with the mentally challenged Ray "Rocket" Valliene as though he were a co-star of her calibre. "Making It Stick: The Makeup Effects of Stuck on You" (9 mins.) shows Kinnear and Matt Damon getting their Tony Gardner-designed prosthetic double-torso applied in a time-lapse sequence that Kinnear characterizes as a glamour shoot, a subtle reminder that these EPK-type things idealize even that which wouldn't seem to warrant gloss. Kinnear impersonates Ted Koppel to perfection again in the overlong "Blooper Reel" (7 mins.), while trailers for Stuck on You (teaser and theatrical), Cheaper by the Dozen, There's Something About Mary, "In Living Color: Season One", Dodgeball, Alien Vs. Predator (technically a making-of featurette), Man on Fire, and The Day After Tomorrow (the latter four are accessed via the main menu's "Inside Look" option and play consecutively) round out the platter. Originally published: April 5, 2004.