The Heartbreak Kid

Movie Information

The Story: A shallow middle-aged man marries a ditsy woman only to discover that she's a living nightmare, so naturally on their honeymoon he falls in love with someone else. The Lowdown: A monumentally unpleasant, unfunny "romantic comedy" that confuses the merely grotesque with funny.
Genre: Gross Comedy
Director: Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly
Starring: Ben Stiller, Michelle Monaghan, Malin Akerman, Jerry Stiller, Carlos Mencia
Rated: R

When the abomination known as The Heartbreak Kid finally lurched, limped, crawled and oozed to the blessed relief of its conclusion and David Bowie’s “Suffragette City” came up on the soundtrack, my viewing partner remarked, “I like the soundtrack.” “Me, too,” I responded, adding, “But I’ve got all the Bowie albums the songs are from, and I don’t need to sit through a crapfest like this to hear them.” Still, the Bowie tracks (an idea Wes Anderson used to far better effect a couple years ago in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou) are quite the best thing about the Farrelly Brothers’ desperate attempt to regain the raunchy credibility that There’s Something About Mary gave them back in 1998. What was calculated to return the brothers to the supposed edginess of that film turns out to be just so much hateful arrested-development garbage.

The film is based on a 1972 Elaine May film from a script by Neil Simon—a mildly cynical PG-rated affair that has here been trashed and tarted up into an outpouring of unrestrained sleaze. That might be OK if it were funny, but it’s not. Instead it’s 116 minutes of tedium punctuated with outbursts of tastelessness—not bad taste, mind you, but tastelessness, and there is a difference. There’s nothing actually transgressive here, and certainly nothing shocking—unless you’re shocked by the spectacle of seeing Jerry Stiller make the same nasty misogynistic remarks over and over in the belief that the audience will laugh at them. His indelicate phrase for sex isn’t funny the first time he says it. By the sixth or seventh time, it’s positively offensive. Most movies suffering from an emotionally stunted sense of humor are at least only stunted to the realm of adolescence. The Heartbreak Kid is nearer the realm of infancy.

It’s also yet another of those films where the trailer sets up the premise for you in two-and-a-half minutes: Nebbishy Eddie Cantrow (Ben Stiller) plunges into marriage with pretty Lila (Malin Akerman, a kind of bargain-basement Cameron Diaz) only to discover that she’s a barking lunatic, whereupon he meets his “true love,” Miranda (Michelle Monaghan, Mission: Impossible III), while on his honeymoon from hell. The movie, on the other hand, takes a torturous 40 to 50 minutes to establish the same thing. Plus, once it gets to that point, it gets worse instead of better. Where the early stretches of the film are full of forced humor about Eddie’s faux-outrageous father (Jerry Stiller); Lila’s obnoxious dimwittedness, lack of even rudimentary social graces and sexual weirdness; and the stand-up shtick of spectacularly unfunny stand-up comic Carlos Mencia—the second half only offers more of the same with trimmings.

However, the biggest problem the film has is the fact that Eddie is a complete louse. No matter how ghastly Lila is—and she is pretty darn ghastly (even before she unveils the world’s scariest merkin)—nothing can excuse Eddie’s actions, which are cruel, vile and self-absorbed to say the least. By the three-quarter mark, it’s no longer a question of not giving a damn whether or not Eddie ends up with the girl of his dreams, it’s a question of wishing the Old Testament God would appear and smite the little weasel with a lightning bolt. This truly is a vile, unappealing and even creepy movie. It’s the sort of thing that could make you long for the halcyon days of Norbit (2007). Rated R for strong sexual content, crude humor and language.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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6 thoughts on “The Heartbreak Kid

  1. Sean W.

    An excellent review, Mister Hanke!

    But I must ask: do you think that the poor quality of The Heartbreak Kid is purely coincidental? Are you blind to the signs? Examine the prominent “birthmark” on Ben Stiller’s forehead and left hand. Follow his dialogue closely and you may notice a sharp point at the tip of his tongue. And why does his skin glow a faint cherry-red even indoors? Is this radiance a product of what Stiller has excused as a “skin problem”? Or could it be some more sinister condition…?

    The evidence speaks for itself:

    The dark times are upon us.

  2. Justin Souther

    The Devil must be slacking.

    You’d think he could get you more than a $26 million gross in two weeks.

  3. Ken Hanke

    Well, he’s spreading himself thin these days with these multiple contracts — Stiller, Ferrell, Jim Carrey, Adam Sandler — not to mention those botched deals with Rob Schneider and David Spade. Plus, rumor has it that even HE is embarassed by that Jon Heder business. Times are hard.

  4. Orbit DVD

    The forces of good are still at work. Notice that there are no more Tom Green movies.


  5. Ken Hanke

    Good point, but I believe he was lost as part of the negotiations involving the Wayans Brothers movies.

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