- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 11, 2003

NEW YORK — There’s something about the Farrelly brothers’ new comedy, “Stuck on You,” that strikes an autobiographical note.

No, the writing/directing team is only metaphorically joined at the hip, unlike the film’s conjoined twin heroes (Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear).

Still, even Bobby Farrelly admits the new comedy reflects both the teamwork and unusual comic sensibility that he and his brother bring to their twisted oeuvre.

“After we made it, we showed it to our friends, and they said, ‘That’s your story, you and Pete,’” Bobby Farrelly says during interviews last month to promote the film. “We certainly weren’t thinking, ‘Let’s write a story about ourselves.’ But as we look at it now, there’s definitely some of us in there.”

“Stuck on You” follows a pair of conjoined twins as they head out to Hollywood so brother Walt (Mr. Kinnear) can give his acting career one last try. Along the way they meet Cher, playing herself. In a bid to sabotage a television show from which she hopes to extricate herself, Cher hires Walt to star.

The signature gag in the Farrelly brothers’ breakout hit “There’s Something About Mary” can’t be described in a family newspaper without circumlocutions. Some saw their 2001 “Shallow Hal” as a cruel joke at the expense of the obese, while mental health officials cringed at their split-personality farce, “Me, Myself and Irene.”

Their next film “The Ringer,” which they’re producing, centers on a man trying to scam the Special Olympics.

While the Farrellys still relish writing ‘comedy provocateurs’ on their W2 forms, there are signs that they have begun to retract their horns — a little.

“If you don’t like these guys Bob and Walt, then you don’t care what happens to them, and it’s just a putdown of conjoined twins,” Mr. Farrelly says.

Their last few films have lacked the gross-out gags that influenced a generation of lesser films (2001’s “Freddy Got Fingered” and the “American Pie” trilogy, to name a few).

“Once we did ‘Mary,’ we followed it up with ‘Me, Myself and Irene.’ Then we thought, ‘We don’t wanna go further and further because of ratings difficulties,’” he says. “We did sort of pull back a little and [decided to make] PG-13 films with a wider appeal.”

That cautious approach must be working. “Stuck on You” features three Oscar winners in key roles.

The brothers wrote the original “Stuck” script in 1990. “One of the casting ideas was Jim Carrey and Woody Allen,” Mr. Farrelly says. “The age disparity would be addressed by mentioning Mr. Carrey’s character had the entire liver, causing Mr. Allen’s brother to age rapidly.”

Dollar disputes derailed that plan, setting the stage for the Damon/Kinnear pairing.

The film’s biggest casting coup was the signing of Cher. Coming in a close second was securing Meryl Streep to play herself.

The Farrellys were as surprised as anyone to learn Miss Streep admired their work.

“‘I never get anything [offered to me] like what you guys do,’” she told them, Mr. Farrelly recalls. “In this one, when the guys go to Hollywood, we thought maybe they could run into her, and she could play herself.”

One of the film’s other Oscar winners, Mr. Damon, says he had no problem starring in a movie tweaking conjoined twins, as long as it didn’t “cross a line into cruelty.”

He came aboard after spirited discussions with the brothers.

“It’s what they would say is a feel-good movie,” said Mr. Damon, who seemed giddy at the thought of changing his serious image, at least for one film.

The Farrelly brothers will soon begin their next project — a re-imagining of “The Three Stooges.”

“That one scares us more than ‘The Ringer’ and the conjoined twins,” Mr. Farrelly says of the backlash such a project could inspire.

Still, even the wrath of Moe, Larry and Curly fans beats the neglect the brothers suffered in their early years, when they pounded out scripts no one would so much as glance at.

“We wrote for 10 years without getting anything made,” he says. That didn’t stop them. Nothing did, except for “The Andy Griffith Show,” which they paused to watch every day at 3:30 p.m.

“There was something about that town,” Mr. Farrelly says of the fictional Mayberry. “One episode could be sad and poignant, the next could be kind of broad.”

“The Andy Griffith Show.” Now there’s one entertainment property that is surely Farrelly-proof.

Or is it?

Jim Carrey as Barney Fife, anyone?

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