“I’m Paul Barlow, and this is my daughter Jo.”

“Malone.”

“You got a first name?”

“Yeah.”

There’s Something About Mary

I forgot to mention in the SMALL SOLDIERS and PI reviews that LETHAL WEAPON 4 also came out that week. Then…

July 15, 1998

We all know the studios can be pretty cynical and obvious in the summer time. When you’re dumping millions upon millions of dollars into these cinematic behemoths that are gonna battle it out for supremacy of Blockbuster Island, you’re usually gonna lean toward easier bets – an old TV show or character people recognize, an easy to explain spectacle. Industrial light and mayhem. Disaster movies seemed like the thing after INDEPENDENCE DAY and TITANIC, so in Summer of ’98 we got the comet and the asteroid and the name brand giant monster, and it’s not that surprising that ARMAGEDDON would be the #1 grossing movie worldwide, or that GODZILLA would be #3. (That a war drama would be in between them was a little less predictable, but then again it was Steven Spielberg directing Tom Hanks.)

When an original comedy comes in at #4, though, that means something. That’s one that has to be earned. THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY, the Farrelly Brothers’ followup to KINGPIN, was an R-rated comedy with dick and semen jokes that somehow seemed a little elevated by their audaciousness, and it fucked up the zeitgeist way harder than Godzilla did New York. Laughs do matter.

Ben Stiller (HIGHWAY TO HELL) plays the hapless male lead Ted Stroehmann, and I mean he is completely devoid of hap. Sure, in the 1985 prologue (adult Stiller playing a 16 year old with a wig and braces is a treat) he does hap into a prom date with radiant babe Mary Jensen (Cameron Diaz [THE COUNSELOR], previously seen in FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS), but before they even leave her house a series of mishaps mishappen, and he misses the actual prom on account of public penis injury.

On paper that must sound dumb, but you’ve probly seen it, so you know the irresistibility of this escalating gauntlet of absurdly extravagant embarrassments. Stiller was well established as an edgy comedic voice with The Ben Stiller Show, his MTV Movie Awards sketches and THE CABLE GUY, but I think this movie turned him into mainstream comedy movie star by revealing his talent for being a human indignity sponge, a likable doofus with the Christ-like purpose of absorbing all of man’s degradations, usually with a look on his face that says “oh, come on, man,” or meek words of protest that severely undersell the vast levels of bad luck and injustice he’s suffering in our place.

This particular sequence of events begins with dorky Ted peeing in the Jensen family bathroom, glancing out the window to smile at a singing bird, only to be mistaken for peeping into Mary’s window as her mother (Markie Post from Night Court – one of only a handful of movies she’s in) helps her fix her dress. That misunderstanding seems insignificant after he quickly zips his pants back up and gets… stuff caught in the zipper. Maybe it takes a juvenile mind to build a whole movie around an extended dick mangling sequence, I’m not sure. But only a Farrelly mind knows to stack it with the humiliation of a series of adults coming in and trying to help. There’s Mary’s dad (Keith David, SAVAGE DOG), whose reaction runs the gamut: skepticism, terror, sympathy, anger. He brings in Mary’s mom (“Don’t worry, she’s a dental hygienist, she’ll know exactly what to do”), who can’t think of anything better than spraying it with Bactine. Then a cop appears in the window saying, “Neighbors say they heard a lady scream.” And then a fireman just barges in the door. When he sees what’s going on he laughs and tells “Mike and Eddie” over the walkie-talkie to “bring everybody, bring a camera, you’re not gonna believe this!”

The part I remembered most, of course, was the brief shock shot of the so-called “franks and beans.” But this scene has like a million little jokes in it that I love: Ted squeaking out “Oh, I wish” when Mr. Jensen asks if he shit himself or something, Mr. Jensen sitting down and putting on his glasses to examine the crotch before he freaks out, Mrs. Jensen’s hand gestures as she tries to ascertain “What exactly are we, uh, looking at here?”, Mr. Jensen telling the cop “You gotta take a look at this thing” and then asking “Ain’t it a beaut?”, the cop angrily asking “What. The hell. Were you thinking?,” later very seriously rolling his sleeves up after announcing “Look, there’s only one thing to do here,” Ted pathetically trying to convince them to let him just cover it with his untucked shirt and go to the dance…

Young Mary is a note perfect crush for Ted: pretty, radiant smile, impossibly nice, but not necessarily the head cheerleader or anything with her dorky laugh and fights with mean kids protecting her mentally challenged brother Warren (W. Earl Brown [EXCESSIVE FORCE], previously in DEEP IMPACT). Diaz really sells Mary’s overwhelming, non-judgmental positivity and shakes her lanky limbs around in that way that young people do when they have more energy than they know what to do with and aren’t self conscious enough to care about being graceful.

In present day 1998, though, Mary becomes kind of a joke about what would be the unattainable dream girl for a Farrelly Brother: more attractive than ever, but very much a dude at heart. She’s a big sports fan, loves making off color jokes, prefers hot dogs to other foods, finds gross guys adorable, and considers HAROLD AND MAUDE “the greatest love story of our time.”

Mary moved away immediately after the incident, which honestly seems merciful for Ted. But grown up and single he starts remembering it as unfinished business, and his dumbass married friend Dom (Chris Elliott, MANHUNTER) convinces him that it’s okay to hire a detective to find her. Matt Dillon had a hell of a summer between his straight-faced (but two-faced) role in WILD THINGS and the playfully sleazy p.i. Pat Healy. He locates Mary in Florida, stakes her out, falls for her himself, talks Ted out of pursuing her and does it himself. Overhearing a conversation with girlfriends about her ideal man he pretends to be a self-employed architect, love HAROLD AND MAUDE, etc.

I have a hard time reviewing comedies, because I end up just listing things I think are funny. I think Healy is really funny. He’s an idiot – “a mook” Mary says, lovingly – and he goes all out trying to pull off these lies. Like, when he reports back to Ted he could just say she’s married, but instead he pretends to be giving good news but includes lies he thinks will scare Ted away like that she has a bunch of kids, she’s in a wheelchair, she’s overweight.

“Oh she’s a little, a little chubby?” Ted asks with a painfully forced non-judgmental expression.

“I’d say about a deuce, deuce and a half. Not bad!”

And I always laugh at the clueless awfulness of trying to paint himself as a saint by talking about his passion for working with people he calls “retards.”

I’ve really only had a few of these in my life – comedies that I saw in the theater and the mob-laughter of that audience is such a strong part of the experience of the movie that it’s hard for me to separate them in my mind. There was a sold out opening night showing of BORAT where I laughed harder than I’ve ever laughed at anything before or since, and it was made all the funnier by the discomfort of the stranger in the seat next to me never laughing once. There was a been-out-for-a-while-but-there-are-some-people-here showing of the first JACKASS movie that I remember for the camaraderie of laughing and cringing and covering our eyes together.

THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY was something a little different, a sort of symphonic approach, with funny shit spread throughout but with three major set pieces that built to crescendoes of laughter: the ludicrously building “franks and beans” sequence and the two drugged dog slapstick sequences.

And maybe the biggest laugh was the hair gel semen joke, which I found to be the only big one that didn’t really hold up on this viewing, not through any fault of the joke but just because it became so famous and associated with the movie (including having the silly hair do in some of the promo art) that it went from something you can’t believe someone came up with, can’t believe you’re seeing in a movie, to an oversaturated pop culture thing. An Austin Powers catch phrase.

The dog jokes might’ve suffered a similar fate (they kicked off a period when all comedies had to have some sort of animal injury joke) except they’re so full of ridiculous details (Pat exposing wires to jolt the dog’s heart, Ted doing a WWF style elbow drop on the little guy) that they don’t really wear out. And as much as the key art inoculated us to the image of Puffy in a full body cast, I still laugh at Ted hiding that he accidentally left him on top of the car.

We like to think things have changed so much, hopefully in a progressive direction, and in many ways they have. Remember, back then “Don’t ask, don’t tell” seemed like an improvement on “don’t be in the military at all,” and same sex marriage was out of the question! Much to the chagrin of some, we’ve gotten more sensitive about portrayals and representations of different minority groups in movies. Standards are higher. But trying to decide if THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY is “problematic” now, as they say, I come to almost the same standstill I did twenty years ago.

There’s only one arguably homophobic gag, but it’s a big one, where Ted is mistakenly swept up in a sting operation of dudes cruising for sex at a rest stop. He’s honestly just going to the bathroom and he literally falls into a huge orgy. It’s a perfectly set up joke about the ridiculousness of him getting placed in this world he knows nothing about and other related misunderstandings, but I felt then and now that there’s something gross about the only gay characters in the movie being treated as weirdos in the bushes running from police floodlights.

There’s also the matter of the character of Warren and all the jokes about him yelling out “he was masturbating!” or throwing Ted through a table or whatever. Alot of the humor is about Ted getting blamed for everything – when Warren lifts him up and airplane spins him, Warren’s mom yells “Ted, you get down from there!” Is laughing at the social situations he causes the same as laughing at his disability? A quick search shows many excoriations of the movie, from 1998 and later, for promoting stereotypes about disability. And I imagine it would all be worse if they’d gone with an earlier idea of having Chris Farley play the character.

On the other hand we see Mary being so non-condescendingly loving of her brother and other characters played by actual developmentally disabled actors who I believe the Farrellys knew from their own volunteer work. Freddy is played by Warren Tashjian, the older brother of one of their childhood friends, who inspired the character of Warren. Mary’s friendship with these people is a central part of her life, while Healy’s accidental insensitivity toward them is a key reason why he’s a total goon.

There’s also the matter of Mary’s friend Tucker (Lee Evans, THE MEDALLION), who walks on crutches, and in one scene the Farrellys create great discomfort with a scene where he insists on Mary not helping him pick up something he dropped, though it’s very hard for him to pick up. It’s clearly not appropriate to laugh, and they test you by making it comically exaggerated, something that reads differently when (SPOILER) you know that he’s a faker.

Here’s a piece from Ability Magazine that holds the Farrellys and their work in a very high regard, for what that’s worth.

The one aspect that makes me slightly more uncomfortable now than it did twenty years ago is that it makes comedy out of Chris Elliott as crazed, hives-faced, shoe-stealing Woogie ambushing Mary, against his restraining order. Then again, it’s important to the theme of the movie to have a character who is undeniably a stalker by strict definition.

See, I actually think the movie is very of-the-moment in its fascination with turning the tropes of normal romantic comedies on their heads. Much of the premise here is pretty standard for a movie that could’ve starred Hugh Grant/Tom Hanks/Richard Gere/John Cusack and Julia Roberts/Meg Ryan/Sandra Bullock/Drew Barrymore/Minnie Driver/Jennifer Aniston or somebody, including the married friend who gives him the bad idea, the structure of meeting up and falling for each other and then the devastation of the false pretenses coming out and then realizing he was wrong and trying to do the right thing, therefore proving his worth to her.

And of course there’s got to be some competition for her heart, but the twist that changes everything is that Mary is so desirable that every male involved ends up trying to trick her into love – the private detective, the close male friend who she introduces the private detective to, the best friend Dom, even the froggy-voiced old man she brings sandwiches to. There’s not some snooty rich guy she’s dating who if she only knew the truth she would see he’s bad for her, allowing us to root for their relationship to go bad so Ted can get in there. No, she’s somehow, miraculously, unattached, and all these shitheads are pathetic phonies and although Ted is not nearly as brazen (like, he doesn’t fake a job, a nationality or a disability), the obvious parallels between what they’re all doing make it plain how wrong he is to deceive her like this. He and Dom even joked about whether hiring a detective constituted being a stalker, Ted not realizing that Dom literally was a stalker.

A few promotional items.

Though KINGPIN is definitely my favorite Farrelly Brothers film, THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY remains one of the funniest movies of its era. I just Googled “funniest movies of the 90s” and it came up next to DUMB AND DUMBER, CLERKS, THE BIG LEBOWSKI, WAYNE’S WORLD, GROUNDHOG DAY, TOMMY BOY and DAZED AND CONFUSED. It was #17 on a Guardian “best comedy films of all time” list, #13 on a Rolling Stone “25 Funniest Movies” readers poll  . At the time, Diaz was nominated for a Golden Globe, and they won a bunch of MTV Movie Awards. And the movie got great reviews. Gene Siskel chose it as the #8 film of 1998, his last top ten list. (He had ANTZ at #6 though!?)

After that, the Farrelly Brothers’ powers dropped off a little. ME, MYSELF & IRENE was a hit, but seems kinda forgotten. SHALLOW HAL really pushed their penchant for button-pushing that’s well intentioned but not taken as such by many. THE THREE STOOGES is funny, I swear, and did okay enough that they’re supposedly doing a sequel now, but the Farrellys don’t seem to be involved. Stiller, however, was catapulted into mainstream movie star status and acted out more severe humiliation in the MEET THE PARENTS series, and did whatever he does in the NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM and MADAGASCAR movies. He was still able to have a strong comedic voice as writer/director/star of ZOOLANDER and TROPIC THUNDER. Diaz brought joy to the two CHARLIE’S ANGELS, made lots of money with the SHREK series, was in some interesting movies like BEING JOHN MALKOVICH, GANGS OF NEW YORK, THE BOX and THE COUNSELOR, and in 2013 was reported to be Hollywood’s highest-paid actress over 40. But she hasn’t been in anything since 2014 and referred to herself as retired in an Entertainment Weekly interview this year. Dillon was nominated for a supporting actor Oscar for CRASH (2005) and did the voice of “Trey” in ROCK DOG.

1998 shit: I was thinking it wouldn’t really happen now, because he could probly just find Mary on Facebook and wouldn’t need a private investigator. Then I realized that she might avoid an internet presence because of her experience being stalked by Woogie. If so, Ted hiring someone to track her down would be even more creepy and wrong.

The soundtrack is identifiably ’90s because of songs by The Dandy Warhols, The Lemonheads, etc. But there’s an emphasis on more retro kind of songs, especially in the scenes with the landlord Magda (Lin Shaye, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET), and the memorable end credits for some reason have the whole cast lip-synching “Build Me Up Buttercup” by The Foundations. (Diaz in particular is so clearly into it that it’s hard not to be left with a real joyful feeling at the end of the movie.) The scenes with Jonathan Richman as a singing narrator are also fairly timeless, as he’s been performing since the ’70s and solo since the early ’80s.

Like the heroes of FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS, MR. JEALOUSY and HENRY FOOL, Ted is said to be a writer. But we never see him writing or hear any specifics about what he writes.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

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32 Responses to “There’s Something About Mary”

  1. My one and only viewing of this movie could have gone better and has colored my view of it. My mom wanted to see it because of all the raves and not knowing about the content so ya know,watching this movie in a theater sitting next to my mom. Kinda awkward. Need to give it another shot. I second THE THREE STOOGES movie being good, I try to advertise that one when I can because it’s so over-looked.

  2. I haven’t seen the movie since it came out, but since then I’ve become a huge fan of Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers. I can’t fucking believe he was the singing narrator in this film. My mind is blown into smithereens.

  3. The day I saw this movie in a sneak preview, not knowing which movie they would show, was the day when I got my last real haircut. (Everything afterwards was more a “Let’s keep it at hip length” trimming to avoid accidents.)

    Man, today we are, thanks to Seth MacFarlane, Adult Swim & co, used to shocking gross out content, but for its time, this movie REALLY pushed the envelope. THEY SHOWED SPERM! Back then, “gross-out” normally meant fart jokes, puking, maybe a booger or two. But this was a mainstream studio release, starring respectable actors! I guess if the script wouldn’t be so well structured, that even most “serious” critics couldn’t hate it, this would’ve been a much bigger scandal back then.

    It should be noted, that this movie made Cameron Diaz a big star. After THE MASK, she became a bit of an independent film actress, but this one really pushed her to the A-list.

    It must be said: I like the Farelly Brothers. I like to call them “The humanists of low brow comedy”. It’s not just how they love to incorporate disabled people into their movies with an unmatched “Dude, they are human beings, they know what’s going on around them, they love to be in this movie, so let’s love WITH them” ease, they always root for the underdogs and outsiders. Compare that to modern filmmakers like Paul Feig, who uses a similar “Let’s humiliate the good guy to make us root for him/her” approach, but not just never knows when to stop the humiliation, so that his movies become more sad than funny, or makes his characters so unlikeable that you WANT them to fail!

    It’s too bad, that they couldn’t keep the momentum going. I really like ME, MYSELF & IRENE and even OSMOSIS JONES, but after that, the only good things were STUCK ON YOU and yes, THE THREE STOOGES. Shout outs to the more-tasteful-than-it-sounds comedy THE RINGER, in which Johnny Knoxville attends the special olympics (which they only produced) and the Peter Farrelly solo TV show LOUDERMILK, which I highly recommend to everybody who loves asshole-with-a-heart comedies.

  4. *Of course that’s “Let’s LAUGH with them”, not love

  5. What’s the problem with SHALLOW HAL? I recall it being quite sweet, and Jason Alexander’s character being one of the most memorably evil pieces of shit ever portrayed in a movie.

  6. SHALLOW HAL just didn’t work for me, but it’s been too long to remember why. Maybe I should give it another try.

  7. I think the key to a lot of the Farrelly Brothers movies is that their premises at first sound repulsive, while in execution they’re incredibly inclusive and warmhearted. For me SHALLOW HAL, STUCK ON YOU, and FEVER PITCH are the height of that approach, even though those movies weren’t as warmly received and have a lower laugh-ratio than their first three. They were onto a very humanist reworking of the ’00s gross out comedies they helped spawn, evident in how it actually feels uncomfortable in their movies when “normal” people show up.

  8. The Farrelly’s triple opening whammy of Dumb & Dumber, Kingpin & There’s Something About Mary was incredible. No wonder they dropped of a bit, but I was always fond of Stuck On You too. Dumb & Dumber is tied as the best comedy experience I’ve ever had at the cinema, along with the opening night of Hot Fuzz. I remember laughing as hard as I ever have at the snowball fight, dream sequence and Jeff Daniels shitting himself into oblivion. But seeing Hot Fuzz valentine’s night 2007 with a sold-out crowd in Somerset (where it was shot and Edgar Wright grew up), is right up there too.

    Actually now I think about it, the scene in Home Alone 2 where Culkin throws 4 bricks onto Daniel Stern’s forehead has me laughing off my chair as a kid.

  9. I felt Heartbreak Kid was something of a return to form for the Farrellys. It would have been interesting if Diaz had played the Malin Akerman role, I wonder if they tried to get her.

  10. So, Diaz is married to one of the identical twins from early-aughts pop punk band Good Charolette. They were having dinner at a pizzeria on Fairfax in Los Angeles, seated at the booth next to me.

    Amusingly, she sat on the inside of the booth while he sat on the outside wearing a baseball cap with his own band’s name on it. It’s a clever trick that I’m sure helps give them privacy in public and also cuts down on the number of people who walk up to him asking “Aren’t you that from… What were you in?”

    I didn’t bother them, of course. but as they left, Diaz flashed me and my friends a heart-stopping smile. She is somehow infinitely more beautiful in person.

  11. I’m sorry to be tacky, but:

    (A) I’ve never been more enamored of an actress than I was of Diaz after seeing this movie; and

    (B) I’m not sure I’ve ever laughed harder at anything in my life than at Dillon lying as sincerely as possible, “Those goofy bastards are just about the best thing I’ve got going in this….crazy world.” That whole “I work with retards” scene is amazing and brilliant, really, but goddamn if I don’t still quote the goofy bastards line (in reference to almost anything other than people with disabilities, I hope!) all the damned time.

  12. grimgrinningchris

    August 1st, 2018 at 6:28 pm

    renfield…

    I think there are essentially two problems with SHALLOW HAL.

    1) the point of the movie is that beauty is internal- yet all of its depictions of internal beauty are Hal seeing the modern idealized version of external beauty… then there is that all of the internally beautiful are portrayed (through everyone’s eyes but Hal’s) as absolutely hideous… something doesn’t jive between the intended message and its presentation

    and

    2) which is on the same token, but easier to sum up… the movie is, in part, saying “it’s wrong to judge someone because they are morbidly obese” and then makes 90 minutes of fat jokes.

    All that said, I do still think the movie is pretty funny.

    And ironically given what I just said… Vern, Dillon’s “she’s about a deuce, deuce and a half… she’s good!” line is my most quoted line from the movie to this day. Apropos of nothing… I just loved the cadence of how he said it.
    Oh… and anything out of Harlan Williams 7 Minute Abs diatribe.

    My favorite joke in STUCK ON YOU isn’t even a joke, really. Kinnear’s half is listening to a book on tape of “The Kid Stays In The Picture” on headphones to give Damon’s half a “private” moment to have serious conversation with his ladyfriend. And Kinnear just blurts out (to himself) “Oh, Robert Evans really banged em… He banged em all”. That shit was GOLD… especially since I had JUST read that book when the movie came out so the reference was especially timely .

  13. My biggest “That’s THAT guy?” moment came when I realized the guy that played Dan in Deadwood was Mary’s brother. Guy deserves a lifetime achievement award or something.

  14. I knew I was old when I went and saw this film and didn’t laugh once (The one thing I did laugh at was the dog jumping at Stiller and he ducked and went out the window – but that was when I saw it in the trailer).

    … I hadn’t even reached my mid-twenties … *sigh*.

  15. @ renfield

    It’s the same thing grimgrinningchris said more or less. The idea that inner beauty is more important than what you look like – are you a good person versus a bad one regardless of what you look like – so far so good but the problem is, they represent good people with what is thought of by many as attractive physically looking people and less good and bad people with plain to unattractive physically looking people as deemed by society – which is actually a lot worse.

    I don’t know what the solution is for this premise (and maybe there isn’t one) but it’s probably the main reason I never saw anything past this trailer – also, this sort of film had long since stopped showing any appeal to me personally anyway even back then.

  16. grimgrinningchris

    August 2nd, 2018 at 5:19 am

    Seven. Minute. Aaaaaaaabs…

  17. Interesting stuff guys, now can you compare and contrast SHALLOW HAL’s approach with SHREK’s?

    Also it occurs to me that Dillon is SO good in this movie that it maybe hurt his career in that you couldn’t un-see him as this colossal sleazebag, similar to post-FEAR AND LOATHING Benicio although that dude has obviously done fine in the long run.

  18. grimgrinningchris: I don’t remember that line from Stuck on You, but reading you recounting it made me laugh out loud just now. That, combined with CJ Holden and Beans praising it above, makes me think I should revisit it.

  19. I couldn’t get completely on board with this one the couple of times I saw it about 15 years ago, but I think a lot of that was having heard all of the big jokes described to me ad nauseam over the preceding five years rendering the impact a bit lacklustre, in retrospect probably not helped by the wave of gross-out comedies it inspired in the intervening years, and Ben Stiller’s incredibly prolific output at the time. But even in those halcyon pre-hot take days the ridiculously male fantasy embodiment of adult Mary was obvious and a bit embarrassing (and I was 17 when I saw this!), although at least the film kind of acknowledges this unlike Heather Graham’s character in THE HANGOVER a decade later, who is probably the high/low point of such things.

    After this the Farellys got into a cycle of making films which seemed daring and potentially offensive in concept, but turned out saccharine in execution, particularly STUCK ON YOU even if it isn’t severely miscalculated in the way SHALLOW HAL is. They then got into a cycle of making films I initially thought were their best since IRENE, but then I forgot everything about them by the time their next one came out. I think they peaked at the start with DUMB & DUMBER; sadly DUMB & DUMBER TO is probably their low point, or at least their film with the most egregious flaws, though it still has some good gags (as well as one gag bizarrely ripped off from forgotten DUMB progeny READY TO RUMBLE)

  20. I really love this movie. It’s a testament to how great it is that Vern listed off like 6 or 7 classic gags and didn’t even get to half of them. All of the bits mentioned in the review and the comments are great, so I’ll just add the one I didn’t notice: the interrogation sequence. It’s so masterfully written and played. The audience knows exactly where the misunderstanding lies, so watching Stiller casually answer how many people he’s killed with “Hitchhikers? I don’t know, 40, 50? I mean, who’s counting?” is just *chef kiss*

    In some ways, There’s Something About Mary feels like a more successful attempt at what Noah Baumbach was doing with Mr. Jealousy (though obviously very different in a few key ways): an old fashioned Hollywood farce updated for the 90’s. Like Vern said, the bare bones of the story is very much in keeping with the tradition of romantic comedies. I go back to it for so many reasons – the performances, the Jonathan Richman Greek chorus, the audaciousness of its grossout gags – but what impresses me the most is how well oiled a machine the film is. It’s almost perfectly plotted. You just don’t see that level of effort put into comedy scripts anymore, at least not in major blockbuster films (the last non-major comedy I can recall being impressed by in a similar way was, perhaps not coincidentally, Baumbach’s Mistress America). It feels like one of the last great big mainstream comedies before they got taken over by the Judd Apatow extended improv wave.

  21. Oh I also want to add that I liked Dumb and Dumber To more than I expected to. It’s obviously not as good as the first and is much more mean-spirited, but there are a few laugh out loud gags that make it worth a watch.

  22. In defense of SHALLOW HAL (man, what a phrase), the movie is stuck with this beauty-representation aspect of its premise, which Shan admits has no easy solution. It still has to operate within the confines of the early ’00s gross=out/body function comedy, which essentially appealed to young males. It’s a tough bind, and there’s a lot about the movie that’s quote-unquote problematic. But it’s also easy enough to justify that its ideal of inner beauty made physical is portrayed subjectively through Hal’s shallow lens.

    I’ll also say this for the film: It almost made me cry. You can call it saccharine, but the burn ward scene with the little girl is startling just that it ended up in the movie at all. There’s near-radicalism to the Farrellys’ sincerity.

  23. I’ll admit I could be judging Shallow Hal harshly based on the trailer but on the other hand, a trailer also serves as something to try and get you to see the whole film – in this case the structure/content and its implications put me off. Part of that whole good trailers can get you to see bad films and bad trailers can do you the disservice of keeping you away from a good film. However, may well have been a (unavoidably due to the implications) bad trailer for a bad film too – for me IMO.

    A bit about There’s Something About Mary – luckily I didn’t see the poster in the bus stops for the movie until after I saw it – it totally gave away the reveal about Tucker and that Brett Favre was in it. Also, credit to at least attempting at least one more complicated set up for a joke that the more frequent immediate toilet humour cheap shot where the doctor or therapist went off on a bizarre tangent about rest stops and then later Ben Stiller trips over that guy in the dark and finds himself in the middle of a police bust (“John Shea (or Shay?) is that you?”). That at least had a set up and pay off.

  24. I randomly remembered how my older sister kept asking me about the significance of Mary’s hair on the poster and how I never told her what it was, only that it was part of a dirty joke. She still hasn’t seen the movie, but one afternoon my mother screamed: “She has orgasm in her hair!” after seeing a trailer for a TV airing that pretty much spoiled the whole hairgel scene*, so by now she at least knows what’s up.

    *Yes, we are that liberal over here. The movie even has a 12 rating.

  25. grimgrinningchris

    August 2nd, 2018 at 12:47 pm

    Palermo-

    I think the visual representation of inner vs outer beauty thing does ultimately work (tenuously) because as you said, it really WAS the only way to represent it and it make sense to people immediately without over and over and over explanations of some kind. And likely the main reason that though still “problematic” I can give it a pass (that and cuz yknow, problematic or not, it’s pretty funny regardless)…
    That doesn’t explain or excuse the “we’re gonna make 100 fat jokes… but don’t laugh at fat people” side of things. It’s the same as that Chuck & Larry movie with its gay jokes. Telling you not to do something while at the same time expecting you to. Shallow Hal is actually pretty decent though and since I am convinced that Kevin James and Adam Sandler bring out the absolute worst in each other… the Chuck & Larry movie is not.

    What about when the SHAMELESS/SOUTH PARK lady tried to flip things in the early aughts with THE SWEETEST THING (also with Diaz), doing a Farrelly-style gross out sex comedy, but from the female perspective?
    I think it is a pretty tasteless (and not always as funny as it seems to think it is) but still works, for me at least, totally based on the likability of pretty much everyone in the cast.

  26. grimgrinningchris –

    I agree with what you’re saying, but would suggest there was probably a lot of SHALLOW HAL’s audience that was disappointed that it wasn’t reliant ENOUGH on fat jokes. It does want to have it both ways, and I felt similarly to you about CHUCK & LARRY’s method. The cruel jokes are there, but there’s an element to it that actually registers hurt from the insults on screen.

    I haven’t seen THE SWEETEST THING since it opened, and didn’t like it then, although I think that was some disconnect with the characters. The Farrellys leads are outsiders, while TST (like TOMCATS) felt more yuppie-driven somehow. But it’s interesting how that movie was sort of forgotten as a female sex comedy. And then BRIDESMAIDS came out, and that was perceived as the OG rulebreaker.

  27. grimgrinningchris

    August 3rd, 2018 at 1:43 pm

    I love BRIDESMAIDS and think it is a far funnier and far better movie than THE SWEETEST THING, but I think you’re right that TST doesn’t really get ANY credit for trying something similar like a decade earlier.

    And I can see a lack of identification with characters that are ultimately well off WASPy chicks with good jobs. I think Selma Blair’s character working retail and being kind of an oddball TRIED to do something with that, but she was third banana. I think maybe part of it with Diaz and Applegate was at least an attempt at “hey even these chicks who outwardly seem really together and affluent can still be dorks, insecure and often totally disgusting in private”… but even if that was the intent, I admit that it doesn’t really work. And at times I think it is trying too hard to shock (I’m glad a musical number about anal sex was axed, at least from the R rated version).

    It really isn’t great or 1/10th as funny as the Farrelly’s best stuff or Bridesmaids, (though I do still quote Diaz’s line about not wearing her good panties… “I oooonly brought the skaaaanky ones!” mostly cuz her delivery of it is hilarious) but the three leads and then Thomas Jane (!!!) and Jason Batman are so damn likable, it makes the whole thing an easy repeat watch regardless.

  28. The Sweetest Thing was on HBO constantly when I was in my early teens and I watched it over and over, but… I couldn’t tell you a single thing about it. I know I’ve seen it at least 12 times. Hell, I might have bought the DVD in a Diaz multi-film pack at Costco. I just, it’s completely gone from my mind.

  29. grimgrinningchris

    August 4th, 2018 at 12:01 pm

    Just getting through the newest season of ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK and Black Cindy just referenced THE SWEETEST THING just now. Ha.

  30. grimgrinningchris

    August 4th, 2018 at 12:05 pm

    I used the word “just” three times in one sentence. I need an editor.

  31. Just in: Steven Seagal appointed Russian goodwill ambassador to the US. This will change everything!

  32. Viewings of ON DEADLY GROUND are now mandatory.

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