The movies written and directed by the brotherly filmmaking team of Peter & Bobby Farrelly will never be known for high brow wit or sophisticated humor. Their tastes run decidedly below the belt, and their efforts can best be described as crude, tasteless, raunchy and offensive to some or many viewers depending on the particular joke or situation they're delivering, exploiting, or poking fun at.
Fortunately, their sense of humor is also occasionally outrageously funny -- as long as you don't mind its sophomoric, lowest common denominator approach -- and their latest effort, "There's Something About Mary," is yet another case example of their unique comedic style.
Much like their earlier efforts, "Dumb & Dumber" and "Kingpin," this film isn't above finding or poking fun at any number of subjects, and at times provides some of the funniest stuff I've seen on the big screen in years. If you can picture The Three Stooges in a John Waters film, you'll begin to get an idea of what this film's about. Featuring some hilarious and over the top physical comedy, sight gags, and irreverent humor, the film will as easily amuse some as it will offend others.
The plot -- written by the Farrelly's and Ed Decter and John J. Strauss -- isn't inherently outrageous as a story, but several individual scenes they've hung on it are uproariously funny. The opening prologue -- featuring Stiller as an awkward, unkempt geek with a mouth full of braces -- is clearly the best material in the movie.
After an unexpected and mistakenly violent encounter with Mary's brother, Ted manages to catch a certain part of his anatomy in his zipper while in the bathroom. Sure it's childish, gross and decidedly immature, but when a succession of people tries to come to his aide, I have to admit that I (along with everyone else in the audience) haven't laughed so hard in the theater in a long time.
Unfortunately, the humor quickly dries up as we move to the present, and for long periods of time nary a laugh is to be found, although several moments are amusing enough to keep things from getting too stale. It's not long, however, before another scene pops up-- this one featuring a character's efforts to revive a dog that's been over sedated -- that's sure to offend or upset some viewers, while causing others to grasp their stomachs from laughing so hard.
That's pretty much how the movie proceeds for the rest of its near two hour length. Long stretches of little or failed attempts at humor permeate the film. Then, out of the blue, comes some outrageously gross, but often quite funny bits that easily stirred up the most response (both in laughter and exclamations of "That's so gross!") that I've heard from an audience in the past several years.
Other moments, however, don't work as well as planned. Singer/songwriter Jonathan Richman periodically shows up throughout the film as something akin to a Grecian chorus -- where his musical interludes inform us of the plot's whereabouts. While the fact that Richman and his stoic drummer partner show up in the oddest of places is slightly amusing, the ditties themselves aren't as funny as one would expect for a movie like this.
Likewise, the Farrelly's don't take a plot element -- that's identical to one in Woody Allen's "Everyone Says I Love You" (where a male character wins the affection of a female by already knowing her likes and dislikes and then dropping lines of such dialogue when necessary) -- far enough in comparison to their other outrageous (and funny) material. In addition, an extended scene where Ted is mistakenly accused of being a mass murderer when he thinks he's being charged just for picking up hitchhikers didn't elicit many laughs from our audience.
Not surprisingly, the performances in a movie like this aren't anything spectacular, but the leads are likeable enough to keep us interested. Other than the fact that her character should be bright enough to see through the shenanigans surrounding her, Cameron Diaz ("The Mask," "My Best Friend's Wedding") is a delight. Bubbly, outgoing and drop dead gorgeous, there's no surprise that every guy does have a thing for Mary.
Ben Stiller ("Zero Effect," "Flirting With Disaster") is funniest in his early, mouth full of braces, horrible haircut days, but does elicit enough sympathy later on for us to root for his romantic dreams. Matt Dillon ("Wild Things," "In and Out"), plays an atypical (for him) funny character, but is also decent and is given enough funny lines and moments to make him a likeable comedic "villain."
If you don't mind your comedy being raw, tasteless and probably offensive to some or many viewers, you'll probably get a kick out of this movie. Taking that into consideration, it does contain some of the funniest scenes to show up on the big screen in years, but unfortunately is also saddled with long periods of material that often don't work. You may (and then again, may not) laugh 'till your gut hurts several times, but you'll definitely wish the film were funnier overall. We give "There's Something About Mary" a 4.5 out of 10.