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Something Funny About 'Mary'

By Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 17, 1998

  Movie Critic


    There's Something About Mary Ben Stiller hires an investigator to find his high school crush in "There's Something About Mary. (20th Century Fox)
If the sight of a large chunk of a man's private parts caught in the teeth of a zipper is funny-and I'm not saying it isn't-then have I got a movie for you.

Wit and urbanity be damned. "There's Something About Mary" is tasteless and sophomoric and proud of it. It is also fitfully amusing and ultimately kind of heartwarming in a twisted sort of way, but only to the degree that you are able to stomach copious amounts of the aforementioned "qualities."

Written and directed by brothers Peter and Bobby Farrelly (who brought you the gleeful idiocy of "Dumb and Dumber" and "Kingpin"), this comedy will separate the men from the boys faster than the drill instructor in "Full Metal Jacket." Its snickering brand of adolescent male humor may also separate the women from the boys in record time too. Not to be sexist, but womankind has-God bless 'em-been historically less obsessed than their brethren with infantile jokes about body fluids, genitalia and facial eruptions.

Directors:
Bobby and Peter Farrelly
Cast:
Cameron Diaz;
Matt Dillon;
Ben Stiller;
Lee Evans;
Chris Elliott
Running Time:
1 hour, 59 minutes
R
For profanity, pinup photos, puerile sex talk, masturbation, bare breasts and a brief, though graphic, shot of flesh caught in the zipper of a mans's pants.
And, ladies and gentlemen, there are plenty of them.

The movie opens in 1985, when 16-year-old sweethearts Ted (Ben Stiller with a mouthful of braces and an Eddie Van Halen wig) and Mary (Cameron Diaz in pink dress and matching lipstick) are preparing to go to the senior prom. The dream date never materializes, however, because that's when Ted's manhood has its unfortunate encounter with the fly of his taupe 'n' tan tuxedo.

(Bear in mind that this gruesome mishap is not merely suggested by the Farrellys but shown, in all its jaw-dropping glory. Forget the notorious, final scene of "Boogie Nights." A special Oscar should be given to Scott Malchus, the genius makeup designer who created this grotesquely realistic prosthesis.)

Thankfully, we flash forward to 1998. Mary has subsequently moved to Miami and Ted has long since healed-certainly physically if not emotionally. Although they never saw each other again after that fateful night, he's still obsessed with her.

At the urging of his best friend Dom (Chris Elliott, in rare, lunatic form), Ted hires a sleazy private investigator, Healy (Matt Dillon sporting a pencil mustache and oversize fake teeth), to track Mary down. Not only does he find her, but soon Healy becomes smitten with her too.

But wait, there's more! Upon his arrival in Miami, Ted must compete not just with the back-stabbing Healy, but with a line around the block of Mary's other psychotic suitors. Which brings us to the movie's biggest flaw. As a femme fatale, a siren capable of driving men to distraction and deceit, I just don't buy Cameron Diaz. I mean, she's cute and everything, but whenever she smiles that Mississippi-wide grin, I can't help thinking of Jack Nicholson's Joker.

Ben Stiller does make a cute schlemiel as he tries to make up for 13 years of lost courtship and there are some very funny moments involving Mary's unnaturally tan neighbor Magda (Lin Shaye) and her neurotic dog. But in between the manic bits are slack stretches of plodding exposition that weigh down the Farrellys' frenzied tomfoolery.

Fortunately, many of those lulls are filled by cult music sensation Jonathan Richman, who, along with drummer Tommy Larkins, appears throughout the movie as a wry Greek chorus of sorts, commenting on the action with his winsome humor and cheesy melodies. Richman may not be the best thing about "There's Something About Mary," but his presence lends the low-brow yuk-fest a much-needed infusion of class that keeps the buoyant comedy from imploding, a Hindenburg of hot air and half-baked poo-poo jokes.

   
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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