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'Mary': Unadulterated Mirth

By Stephen Hunter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 15, 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)
The nerve of some people. The makers of "There's Something About Mary," for example, believe it is enough for a comedy to be funny.

Talk about arrogance! Talk about self-importance! Talk about the vanity of corporate greed-heads!

Nothing makes me sicker than to report that the theater in which I saw this film was actually filled with people crumpled up with laughter! These benighted fools actually appeared to believe that "feeling good" is appropriate in a world so filled with human tragedy and economic injustice. What is this thing called "humor" anyway but the sound of the bourgeoisie enjoying its ill-gotten gains and of filmmakers refusing to acknowledge their responsibility to enlighten the masses? These times are too troubled for mere "comedy." There are much higher values to be defended, such as compassion, social and political correctness, liberal piety, progress toward a more just society and, of course, redistribution of the wealth, as advanced by those of us anointed to the media elite.

And compared with such heroic responsibilities, how pale and disturbing seem the middlebrow conventions known as "hilarity," "happiness," "the giggles" and "foam-flecked, mucus-spewing gasps powered by intense oxygen debt," which is what this dreadfully anti-humanist document produces. The movie invites us to revel in man at his most elemental as an issuer of fluids, odors and orifice-valved noises. What a cloud of gas is man, these profit-driven jackals insist!

Bobby and Peter Farrelly
Cameron Diaz;
Matt Dillon;
Ben Stiller;
Lee Evans;
Chris Elliott
Running Time:
1 hour, 59 minutes
Offensive comedy material; nudity; violence toward animals, the differently abled, the differently sexed, the differently minded, the differently sleazy.
But far more disturbing, they provoke us to chuckle when man – yes, the same "man" who was in the forest with Bambi's mother! – actually contrives to feed a harmless puppy narcotics. We are then invited to laugh at this victimized creature's tribulations, included certifiable brain death, resuscitation by electrotherapy (in the form of a cord plucked from a lamp), advanced catatonia, chemically induced aggression and finally an immense agglomeration of broken bones.

Sir, as the sainted Joseph Welch said to the Antichrist Sen. Joe McCarthy, have you no shame?

Even the "story" is infantilizing of our responsibilities to our fellow creatures on spaceship Earth. It follows from the crush a high school nerd ("nerd" is classist term for "ungainly, awkward, pimply fellow") develops for a high school dish ("dish," in the language of sexist society, would refer to a young woman of uncommon comeliness of feature, purely by the random distribution of genetic information). When he takes her to the "prom" (disgusting bourgeois celebration of liberation from the consciousness-raising responsibilities of public education), terrible events take place, namely he gets his "thing" caught in his zipper.

Is this funny? They call the fire department, the police department, the news media and this is . . . funny? Methinks not, gentle reader.

Years later, the young man, Ted (played by Ben Stiller), hires a private investigator, Pat (played by Matt Dillon), to find the girl, Mary (played by Cameron Diaz). Alas, the private investigator falls in love with Mary, and he seeks to take her for herself. In fact, she seems to inspire stalkers, as several others show up and pitch woo her direction, like Penelope's suitors.

No doubt, Diaz is the best member of the cast, the rest of whom, all male, are asked to act as if compassion, fair play, brotherhood and human love had no place in the universe in their quest to win the hand of Mary, now a Miami surgeon.

There is no respect for privacy in this movie! Don't they realize that privacy is the government's business! There's no respect for women, the tanned, the four-legged, the forlorn, the uncool and the unfunny!

Why, one would actually think the point of the enterprise were to be funny and not advance, as all movies must, a social agenda of brotherhood as decreed by us of the media elite.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that this movie is directed by the Farrelly brothers, Peter and Bobby, who once did a film called "Dumb and Dumber." This one is dumbest. And funniest, as if that matters even a little bit!

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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