A fair amount of negative press surrounds this latest offering from Peter and Bobby Farrelly, with most of it centering around the fact that Stuck on You isn’t as wildly funny as There’s Something About Mary — the yardstick, unfortunately, by which Farrelly Brothers movies are measured.
To some extent, this typecasting is the Farrellys’ own fault, since they’ve leant their names — and their writing skills — to such lame “gross-out” comedy as Say It Isn’t So, not to mention handling the abysmal live-action sequences of Osmosis Jones. And yet the pair also made the surprisingly warm and humane Shallow Hal, which — to this reviewer at least — marked the brothers’ passage into maturity as filmmakers.
While Stuck is broader and less successful than Hal, it’s very much in the same mould. In other words, if you liked Hal, there’s every reason to expect you’ll find the brothers’ new film worth a look.
Not surprisingly, the problem that a lot of people are having with Stuck stems from its trailer, and the specter of Something About Mary. Yet that’s pretty much the same scenario that afflicted Shallow Hal, which promised an endless parade of fat jokes, and then turned out to be a very different movie.
With Stuck on You, we’re being sold on a series of Siamese-twin gags about brothers Bo (Matt Damon) and Walt (Gren Kinnear). And again, probably 80 percent of those gags are confined to the trailer. Those that are unique to the film are — as with Hal again — different in tone. They’re sweeter and gentler, and are geared toward a larger point than mere cynical comedy.
If Hal taught us anything about the Farrellys, it’s that the pair — for all their over-the-top humor — are about as far from cynical as Frank Capra. The boys are first and foremost sentimental humanists — something that all of their previous work has at least suggested. Their films have always had an air of elaborate home movies about them: Friends and family are invariably given small parts, and the atmosphere is nothing if not peculiarly friendly.
Hal offered the greatest indication yet of what the Farrellys were all about; Stuck on You simply elaborates on this, especially on the brothers’ obvious concerns for the plight of the disabled and, indeed, anyone who is somehow “different.” Hal not only featured a romantic lead with a severe weight problem, but a variety of characters who were in some way set apart from the so-called “normal” world. With Hal, the brothers cooked up an entire movie centered on its characters’ inner beauty. This was perhaps best exemplified in the scenes with Hal and the children in the hospital pediatric center, where we at first only viewed the kids as Hal did when under the spell of TV guru Tony Robbins’ post-hypnotic suggestion (that Hal would only see people as they really were, not as they appeared on the surface).
Stuck on You takes a similar approach in that it’s less a wild comedy — though it more or less works on that level, too, since it never gets preachy — than it is a story of brotherly love, sacrifice and acceptance, and of the discovery that what the world calls normal isn’t necessarily all it’s cracked up to be. The plot follows the efforts of Walt to become an actor — something that holds no appeal for Bo, but something he goes along with simply because of his devotion to his attached brother. Not surprisingly, their efforts at securing acting roles for one-half of a pair of conjoined twins isn’t a cinch.
“I gotta tell you, Siamese twins aren’t the easiest sell I’ve ever had,” sleazy geriatric Hollywood agent Morty O’Reilly (Seymour Cassel) tells them. Their fortunes change when they run into Cher (played by Cher), who’s looking for a way out of Honey and the Beaze, a crummy TV series that her agent has gotten her into. Her contract contains a clause that gives her choice of a leading man — and who better to get the series cancelled than one half of Walt and Bo?
It probably comes as no surprise how this works out, but Stuck on You has enough tricks up its sleeve to offer surprises — or at least variations — on the final outcome. However, that’s less the point here than the story of the brothers themselves — who are what this gentle, caring little movie is finally all about.
As before, the Farrellys are better writers than filmmakers in any visually creative sense. Their style is rarely more than functional; it fits the story and never gets in the way, while never letting you forget that it is a Farrelly Brothers picture — because of the writing, the direction of the actors and the soundtrack. As with Hal, the sibling directors dish up a soundtrack that’s unique in utilizing not especially distinguished early-7’0s pop music (Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Alone Again, Naturally” and Bread’s “Baby, I’m A-want You”) to surprisingly emotional effect.
Is Stuck on You a great film? No, not really. But it’s a good one with a good heart, and it affords a truly pleasant time at the movies. And while it may not be a Christmas film in the strictest sense, it’s a lot more in that spirit than, say, Bad Santa — and its low-key message is easily worth a dozen films of that kind of cruel faux hipness.
– reviewed by Ken Hanke