Change of Heart
Farrelly brothers return to R-rate turf with 'Heartbreak Kid'

2 1/2 stars out of 4

After futzing around this entire century making sub-par PG-13 movies that hamstrung their naughty, schoolboy sensibilities, filmmaker brothers Bobby and Peter Farrelly are back on their comfortable, R-rated turf.

"The Heartbreak Kid" doesn't quite resemble the original 1972 Elaine May black comedy as much as it feels like a half-hearted retread of the Farrellys' classic "There's Something About Mary." May's under appreciated and nervy film was very dark and uneasy. The Farrellys use only its skeletal framework to reconstruct a slapstick farce that works a little more than half the time. When it clicks, it works well. When it falters - which is often - it's still somewhat easy to overlook its inadequacies.

Ben Stiller stars as Eddie, a 40-year-old, never-married man who is perpetually ribbed by his father Doc (Stiller's real-life dad Jerry) and henpecked best friend Mac (Rob Corddry) because of his bachelor status. This, compounded with his attendance at an ex-girlfriend's wedding, gets Eddie to make an uncharacteristic knee-jerk reaction. He falls for and quickly marries the seemingly perfect Lila (Swedish singer Malin Ackerman, who steals every scene in which she appears).

On the way to his Mexican honeymoon, Eddie develops a severe case of buyer's remorse. Lila is far from the dream girl he'd courted, and he starts contemplating exit options. Conveniently, Lila gets badly sunburned on their first day in Mexico, leaving Eddie with lots of free time away from her. He shortly strikes up a cordial, quasi-romantic friendship with Miranda (Michelle Monaghan), a Mississippi teacher who is vacationing with her family.

The Farrellys and their three other screenwriters do well with the first two acts. The back-and-forth ruse Eddie mistakenly backs into sets up a string of hilarious one-liners and comic misunderstandings. Watching Eddie lead along both women, you know at some point his high-wire balancing act will falter. Unfortunately, when it does, so does the rest of the story.

The final act finds Eddie - and the filmmakers - scrambling to wrap it all up neatly. Oddly forced events focusing on illegal immigration and stalking are introduced, and the narrative immediately loses its light touch.

This was not the kind of movie the Farrellys should have tried to rework. The Eddie character (originally played by Charles Grodin) is a totally self-absorbed cad. He has no redeeming qualities. Even in the final scene, the Farrellys acknowledge this fact, yet still try to put a comic spin on it.

This is a story about a man who wants what he can't have. Once he gets it, he doesn't want it anymore. The filmmakers scoot around the main underlying issue and are quite agile at deflecting our attention away from Eddie's selfish ways.

In the end, he's still a schmuck and no amount of retooling can change that. (DreamWorks)