#11 There’s Something About Mary

(1998, Peter & Bobby Farrelly)

“We’re all in love with Mary”

Peter and Bobby Farrelly have made it their trade to produce dumb gross-out comedy, as seen in their breakout movie Dumb & Dumber. They revel in puerile, adolescent humour of the lowest form. There’s Something About Mary follows in this tradition, although this time it bases itself on the foundations of a romantic comedy.

Not that this is a conventional romantic comedy, though. Ben Stiller played Ted, a man who’s still obsessed with his high school crush, Mary (Cameron Diaz), 13 years on. In his desperation to ease his mind about her, he hires a private detective (Matt Dillon) to track her down and provide information on her. Problem is, the detective finds her and falls in love with her himself. Thus sparks a love triangle (which ultimately becomes more of love hexagon) that provides plenty of opportunities for wacky antics and misunderstandings.

Of course, this being a Farrelly Brothers movie, there are a lot of gross-out jokes here. An early scene sees a teenage Ted get his penis stuck in his fly, and later scenes rely on jokes about homosexual road stops and breasts, among other things. It veers dangerously close to being a cheap movie for teenagers who’d laugh at the mere mention of the words “penis” and “breasts” in this paragraph, not exactly a recipe for great, memorable comedy.

And yet, the Farrelly Brothers seem to have figured out that they can’t sell a movie entirely on base humour, and they have backed it up with a bizarre, yet somehow heart-warming tale of long lost love. Some jokes are surprisingly clever (a scene involving Ted being arrested on suspicion of murder despite him being entirely unaware of it is one of the most hilarious scenes in the whole movie) and the romantic connections between Ted and Mary are fairly believable.

The movie, surprisingly, has a heart. While slapstick and masturbation jokes are present, they’re not as common as you’d initially expect. There is evidence of a real attempt at romance at work in here, and subtleties that are easily missed on first viewing as to why Ted and Mary are interested in each other. The fact that Stiller and Diaz both portray these characters as being intensely likeable helps.

Of course, it’s not perfect. Some of the gross-out humour does have a tendency to get in the way, and almost feels like it’s there through contractual obligation more than anything else. And in fact, some of the absurd elements of everyone chasing after Mary can get a little hard to follow. Plus, any scene where British comedian Lee Evans attempts an American accent is painful.

But it could have been much worse. As it stands, There’s Something About Mary manages to be an entertaining comedy that, while not being the most clever movie out there, at least tries to elevate itself about the fart jokes its directors seem to enjoy so much. But the presence of a few of these kinds of jokes is likely to put some people off. In short, your enjoyment of this film is entirely dependent on your ability to stand that kind of thing.

Starring Cameron Diaz, Matt Dillon, Ben Stiller, Lee Evans & Chris Elliot
Written by Ed Decter, John J. Strauss and Peter & Bobby Farrelly
Produced by Frank Beddor & Michael Steinberg and Charles B. Wessler & Bradley Thomas
Music by Jonathan Richman
Cinematography by Mark Irwin
Edited by Christopher Greenbury

Favourite Scene: The interrogation scene. Ted thinks he’s been arrested for picking up a hitchhiker, the police have him on suspicion of murder. Shenanigans happen.
Scene That Bugged Me: Any scene where Lee Evans attempts an American accent. Made even worse by the fact his character pretends to be British, and his “fake” accent (ie. His real one in reality) sounds more believable than his “real” one.

Watch it if: You can accept the odd masturbation joke
Avoid it if: You prefer your romantic comedies with less mentions of penises

Originally posted on Blogspot Saturday 29 October 2011

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Posted on April 2, 2012, in 1990s, Comedy, Romance and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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