It must be nice being Peter and Bobby Farrelly. After milking the success of Something About Mary into a spot on Hollywood’s A-list, the guys can get away with putting friends and family into their big budget comedies and have any old idea greenlit. Yet, the formerly funny filmmakers have apparently given up on feces and farts as their primary punch-lines. Their recent output—the tame toilet humor of Osmosis Jones (2001), Shallow Hal‘s (2001) love story—have been more dull than disgusting. And now, with 2003’s Stuck on You (new to DVD from Fox), they show they’re still stuck in saccharine-ville.
When mining comedic veins for potential plotlines, how far down the funny food chain does the concept of conjoined twins dwell? With Stuck on You, the rapidly fading Farrelly brothers attempt to mix sideshow with sentimentality, both to champion and chuckle at physical disability. Walt (Greg Kinnear) and Bob (Matt Damon) are swell fellas who happen to be bound at the torso. Having long since learned to live with their condition, they run a diner in idyllic Martha’s Vineyard, where they are loved and respected by the townsfolk. Walt performs one-man shows at the local theater. His thespian ambitions inspire that tired old chestnut of a plot point: he wants to run off to L.A. to seek his fortune.
While the initial twins material is weak, the Hollywood lampoon barely gets off the ground, and the love story between Bob and his worldwide web woman, May (Wen Yann Shih), is so lightweight, it practically floats. The brothers story lacks insight or detail. Apparently, this was the intention of the Farrellys all along. On the DVD commentary track, they mention (when they pause from identifying their nepotistic casting) that they decided to handle the conjoined issue as if it was merely a minor glitch in Bob and Walt’s lives. So, we are treated to scene after pay-off-less scene showing they are great athletes or deft short-order cooks. Instead of inspiring awe, they look like well-paid Hollywood actors going through special effects motions.
Bob and Walt’s “difference” only comes to the fore when love is in the air. The lumbering romance between Bob and May turns on the fact that he is hiding his brother from his broadband babe. After the kind of overly coincidental convolutions that pass for introductions in a Hollywood film and a couple of farce-like misrepresentations, we get to the big reveal. May’s initial panic suggests that the film might actually manage some topical commentary on prejudice. But her almost immediate change of heart makes any such issue disappear, and we are back inside Cornball City limits.
Perhaps Stuck on You would have worked better had its superstar cameos become the twins’ love interests instead. Meryl Streep and the scene-stealing Cher provide the only mildly successful send-ups in the film, riffing on their own famous personas. Cher, especially, in all her collagen glory, barges in and tears the movie away from its makers. Forced to star in a stinker of a TV series, she undermines the network by demanding they hire the Tenors as the leading “man.” The idea of the former Ms. Bono throwing a hissy fit about her self-perceived importance (complete with an expletive-filled line about winning a certain statuette) is ripe with possibilities. Repeated references to her cradle-robbing sex life are priceless, but they’re few and far between.
At nearly two hours, this movie is far too long, padded with unnecessary scenes (and after seeing some of the funnier deleted bits in the DVD’s bonus material, it’s hard to champion the bloated running time). It forgets details it raised elsewhere (like the employees at the diner, or the L.A. hotel owner’s shrew of a wife) and repeats tiresome clichés (Hollywood Executives being bullshit artists).
The Farrellys’ recent string of films suggests they have all kinds of quixotic ideas floating around in their heads. If they would scuttle the ultra-high concepts (seeing “inner” beauty, overcoming physical or mental disability), they might come up with a delightful romantic comedy. They call Stuck on You their second in a trilogy of “sweet” films (along with Shallow Hal and the in-production The Ringer). When Stuck was originally announced (around the time that Mary spread spunk in her hair for the 150 millionth time), rumors had Jim Carrey and Woody Allen taking the roles of Bob and Walt. In hindsight, the decision to stick “straight” dramatic actors in roles that cry out for crackerjack timing and improvisation is one big reason this movie misses its mark. Had it remained a story of a “freak” making it big in show business, it might have been another craven, crass hit for the Farrellys.