There's Something About Mary (1998) / Comedy-Romance
MPAA Rated: R for strong sexual content and language
Running Time: 119 min.
Cast: Ben Stiller, Cameron Diaz, Matt Dillon, Lee Evans, Chris Elliott, Lin Shaye, Jeffrey Tambor, Markie Post, Keith David
Director: Bobby & Peter Farrelly
Screenplay: Bobby & Peter Farrelly
Although their first two films gave the Farrelly Brothers (Dumb and Dumber, Kingpin) the reputation as the kings of raunchy comedy, There's Something About Mary shows that they could actually harness their penchant for gross gags into a romantic comedy package and still deliver the laughs amid the softer story line. They have discovered a "less is more" approach that suits them quite well, and by not having every scene trying to outdo the previous one with potty humor, they show that they could be good comedic film makers and not just funny ones.
Ben Stiller (Meet the Parents, The Cable Guy) stars as Ted, a geeky high school student in the mid-80s, who is surprised when he's asked by the school beauty, Mary (Diaz, The Mask) to be her date for the senior prom. After an embarrassing and humiliating accident, Ted never gets to take Mary to the prom, and spends the next 13 years always wondering what it would be like had he been able to get to know her. Curiosity gets the better of him, as he hires an unscrupulous private investigator (Dillon, Wild Things) to track Mary down, but like everyone else who has come across her, he finds himself attracted to her as well. Ted is fed some phony info to make him stop his pursuit, but he proceeds anyway, and once he locates her, all hell breaks loose when he has to deal with her tenacious suitors.
There's Something About Mary has proven to be the most satisfying of the Farrelly comedies -- perhaps not the most laugh-out-loud funny, but there is definitely no skimping in the belly laughs department. Their films have been blessed with good casting, and Mary is no exception, with Stiller setting the tone for a comedic style which would become the style for the rest of his career. Even actors who aren't really known for broad comedy, such as Matt Dillon and (up to this point in her career) Cameron Diaz, pull off their roles as if they have been doing this kind of comedy all along. There are certain elements that will still prove to be too politically incorrect for sensitive viewers, particularly those who think that any fun with handicapped people is a taboo subject for comedies, and while it does occasionally flirt with bad taste, the film doesn't become too saturated to forgive the occasional indulgences.
Even if you aren't a fan of gross humor, there is just enough good non-prurient silliness to elicit hearty chuckles for most adult audiences. Even the sickest of the jokes tends to be more funny than disgusting this time out. As of this writing, it is also the only Farrelly Brothers' film that I would wholeheartedly recommend, and if they can make two or three more films with equally inspired sight gags, they will come a long way to making good funny movies, instead of bad movies with funny moments in them.
©2004 Vince Leo