- The Washington Times - Friday, October 5, 2007

Curse you, Judd Apatow. Before the mind behind “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up” came along, we were satisfied by the Farrelly brothers‘ naughty comedies (“There’s Something About Mary,” “Stuck on You.”).

Now, with Mr. Apatow delivering films with both ripe characters and raucous, R-rated high jinks, we expect his peers to do the same.

The comparisons haunt the brothers’ remake of “The Heartbreak Kid,” but it’s not the only flaw in the comedy duo’s latest.

The 1972 comedy, written by Neil Simon, gave us a likeable fellow (Charles Grodin) who does something awful. He falls in love with another woman on his own honeymoon.

But today’s moviemakers couldn’t make new “Kid” Ben Stiller so egregious, so the brothers Farrelly dull the character’s edges just enough to make him, well, boring.

Mr. Stiller plays Eddie Cantrow, a 40-year-old sporting goods shop owner who can”t catch a break with the ladies. He’s mature enough to attend his ex-girlfriend’s wedding, but that gesture backfires with hilarious results.

He finally meets a great girl named Lila (Malin Akerman, a beauty with fierce comic energy). When her job threatens to move her to Rotterdam, he impulsively proposes to keep her stateside.

All is bliss until the honeymoon in Cabo. At first, her nonstop singing and inability to keep liquids from shooting from her nose is startling. She has a deviated septum? What else is wrong with her?

Then, because this is a Farrelly brothers romp, her flaws take a trip to the absurd. She’s knee-deep in debt and doesn’t actually earn an income. She likes her sex rough, which provides the pretext for the funniest sight gag in “Kid.”

Lila suffers a wicked sunburn and must stay indoors for a few days, a key plot point from the original film. That lets Eddie enjoy the Mexican countryside on his own. In no time he meets Miranda (Michelle Monaghan), an earthy gal with whom he shares a quick, easy rapport.

Soon, Eddie is making up excuses to sneak away from Lila in order to see Miranda.

This “Kid” dips below the belt in ways audiences may not appreciate. Eddie’s dad is played by the actor’s actual father, Jerry Stiller, and the elder’s potty mouth doesn’t do the film any favors. In addition, a comic sequence involving some brutish border agents feels nastier than the brothers’ typically lighthearted efforts.

The brothers can still deliver a few jarring set pieces, such as when Lila drops trow to save Eddie from a sea creature’s sting.

While Mr. Apatow’s comedy stems from realistic situations, you can feel when “The Heartbreak Kid” is laboring toward the punch line. The Farrellys are better than most directors at camouflaging their intentions, but having watched their past movies, you know when the gags are coming.

It helps that Mr. Stiller remains a terrific foil for them, underplaying his line readings at just the right time one minute, then doing a great slow burn the next.

Intermittently funny, “The Heartbreak Kid” has just enough comic juice to rank as a better than average comedy.

Once upon a time, circa, say 2002, that was more than enough.

** 1/2

TITLE: “The Heartbreak Kid”

RATING: R (Nudity, sexual situations, adult language and comic violence)

CREDITS: Directed by Bobby and Peter Farrelly. Written by the Farrellys, Scot Armstrong, Leslie Dixon and Kevin Barnett

RUNNING TIME: 116 minutes

WEB SITE: www.heartbreakkidmovie.com/

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS


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