- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 11, 2003

The first 15 minutes of the conjoined twins comedy “Stuck On You” is as awful as might be feared, given the setup.

Watching Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear shuffle along, their tethered frames swaddled in a series of oversized shirts hurts as much as watching Lucille Ball attempt slapstick well into her golden years.

Then, the Farrelly brothers — Peter and Bobby, the kings of all things politically incorrect — sprinkle their version of fairy dust and the comedy whirs into life.

We don’t get any excretory humor or toilet gags, the brothers’ past go-to gags.

The real Farrelly magic is how the duo make us care about their preposterous characters.

We first meet Bob (Matt Damon) and Walt (Greg Kinnear) flipping burgers at a humble greasy spoon they co-own. Four hands are better than two in the kitchen, and the conjoined brothers can whip up any meal in under three minutes. They may look odd with spatulas in hand, but the duo won’t so much as acknowledge the hardships their conditions impart.

That’s a critical part of the Farrelly formula: never let the audience pity our challenged heroes.

Life is good for the twins, but Walt’s itch for something greater is one even Bob can’t scratch.

The would-be actor is tired of performing one-man shows in their dead-end town. He wants a crack at Hollywood before he’s too old. Bob decides to support his brother’s dream, and soon the duo are headed to Hollywood.

The two hit the expected roadblocks until a chance meeting with Cher changes their fortunes. The ageless one, parodying herself with relish, hires Walt to co-star in a television show she desperately wants to sabotage.

Turns out, the show’s a hit, and so is Walt. Their fame hits a snag when the duo start fighting, a rift which revives talk of separation surgery.

“Stuck on You” won’t bring a lump to a moviegoer’s throat like a Nora Ephron weeper. But once we become emotionally invested in Bob and Walt, the gags gain momentum.

That the jokes don’t hit hard enough isn’t the fault of Mr. Kinnear or Mr. Damon. The actors give in to the Farrelly Method, acting earnest in the face of staggering silliness.

It’s simply that the subject matter is so bound by its simpleton premise it never takes flight with the inspired lunacy of the brothers’ 1998 hit “There’s Something About Mary.”

Even Cher’s playful turn, playing a tabloid version of her surgically preserved self, doesn’t quite measure up to previous Farrelly fare.

“Stuck on You,” coming on the heels of their 2001 film “Shallow Hal,” finds the brothers getting a bit soft.

“Hal” both saluted and mocked the overweight, but eventually settled into an unconventionally sweet love story. Whatever happened to innovative hair gel products and zipper mishaps?

“Stuck” doesn’t pigeonhole itself with the duo’s once-trademark vulgarities. They haven’t stopped working blue, it’s just a paler shade.

The pair can still find inspiration in the unlikeliest of sources. Here, it’s the combination of casting Cher as a vainglorious diva and Meryl Streep as a humble version of herself which provide genuine bolts of creativity.

The good news: “Stuck on You” doesn’t offend like many feared. The bad news: “Stuck on You” doesn’t offend like the rest of us secretly hoped.

**1/2

WHAT: “Stuck on You”

RATING: PG:13 (Crude humor, sexual situations, coarse language)

CREDITS: Written and directed by Peter and Bobby Farrelly.

RUNNING TIME: 120 minutes

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS


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