I love the films of the Farrelly Brothers. Ever since they burst onto the scene in 1995 with Dumb and Dumber, I’ve been a fan of their original comic style. Since that classic debut, the brothers have made the underrated Kingpin and the blockbuster There’s Something About Mary, as well as Shallow Hal and Me, Myself & Irene. Funny movies all. Comedic filmmakers often don’t get the acclaim that so-called “serious” filmmakers do, but I honestly believe Peter and Bobby Farrelly are contributing something worthwhile to the art of movies. Think about any of the titles I mentioned above and I bet you will remember not just the jokes but the characters. Their gift for creating characters we know and love should not be overlooked.
The latest movie from the siblings is Stuck on You, and the theme this time is brotherhood. Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear play Bob and Walt Tenor, conjoined twins who share a liver (although Bob has most of it). Living in Martha’s Vineyard, Bob is a short order cook, while Walt is an aspiring actor. They help each other out on jobs. Walt lends a hand at Bob’s restaurant, the Quickee Burger, where food comes within three minutes or it’s free. Bob, meanwhile, ignores his crushing stage fright in order to stand onstage as his brother acts in a play.
One day Walt announces that he wants to move to Hollywood and become a professional actor. Bob scoffs at the idea of moving until reminded that his internet girlfriend lives there. Moving west would give them a chance to meet. Once in L.A., Walt gets an agent – a sleazy retiree named Morty (Seymour Cassel) – and a few lame jobs. His big break comes when he lands a co-starring role opposite Cher (playing herself, self-effacingly) in a new TV show. The network tries to hide the fact that Walt is a conjoined twin, which leads to a discussion that perhaps he and Bob should undergo a surgical separation procedure.
And of course there are women. Bob does in fact meet May (Wen Yann Shih), but never tells her that he’s literally connected to Walt. (The ways he keeps her from finding out provide some of the biggest laughs.) Walt also finds romance in the form of aspiring actress April (Eva Mendes), who just barely notices the 9-inch piece of skin that joins her boyfriend and his brother.
Many filmmakers, if doing a movie about conjoined twins, would take the easy way out. They would go for cheap jokes, mostly at the expense of the central characters. Not the Farrelly Brothers. They clearly make Bob and Walt much more sympathetic. You never laugh at them; instead, you usually laugh at the ingenious ways they deal with being conjoined. For example, when Walt wants to have sex, Bob simply pulls a curtain dividing their bed. One of the masterstrokes of the film is that Bob and Walt often act as though they are not joined at the hip. In one particularly funny scene, Bob punches Walt, then tries to run away. You gotta love that.
The characters are very well-played by Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear. They have their own lives, the own interests, and their own personalities. Walt is the smooth, self-assured one, whereas Bob is shy and insecure. The actors find just the right groove to keep the characters individualized while still making them funny together. The Farrelly Brothers often have big stars and Oscar nominees/winners in their casts. That’s because actors know their characters are smartly created and offer lots of opportunities to get creative.
It is interesting to note that the Farrellys have always had a fondness for underdogs or people who overcome challenges in some way. Their movies are about people who are overweight, or conjoined, or suffering from mental illness. These people are always the heroes of their stories. This idea also extends to casting. In There’s Something About Mary, a number of mentally retarded men and women appeared in key scenes. In Shallow Hal, they gave a hefty supporting role to their friend Rene Kirby, who has spina bifida. Better still, they made his character a ladies’ man. Stuck on You features several actors – such as Ray “Rocket” Valliere as one of Bob’s employees – who are challenged in some way. I find it endearing that they demonstrate such affection for others.
Stuck on You has many funny scenes, but lacks the number of side-splitting moments that some of their other films have had. But really, I think this is more than just a comedy. It’s ultimately about how these two brothers need each other. They sometimes get on each other’s nerves, and they sometimes get in each other’s way, but they can’t imagine life apart. There’s a real story being told here. It’s told in a humorous way, although it’s still a real story. That’s the thing about Peter and Bobby Farrelly – they’re storytellers first, jokesters second.
( out of four)
Stuck on You is rated PG-13 for crude and sexual humor and some language. The running time is 1 hour and 55 minutes.
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