The antecedents to Peter and Bobby Farrelly's new romantic yuk-fest The Heartbreak Kid should give one pause: five screenwriters working to update a 1972 film penned by Neil Simon, who had adapted Bruce Jay Freidman's short story, the meat of which was lifted from scores of classical comedies. It's likely that the proverbial 100 monkeys weren't involved due only to SAG regulations. Too bad, because monkeys are funny -- and this mean-spirited slog through a postcard-pretty honeymoon-from-hell isn't.
Everybody's getting married except 40-year-old Eddie (the perennially put-upon Ben Stiller). His horndog dad thinks that's great: "Been crushing any pussy?" he rasps at his peevish boy. It's cheating to cast Stiller's real-life dad, Jerry Stiller, as Eddie's potty-mouthed poppa, and their scenes together break what little spell the thin story has. I took to pondering: Is "pussydick" screamed around the table chez Stiller as much as it is here ...? And will late-in-life Ben turn as alarmingly orange -- with skin blending seamlessly into coif -- as Jerry ...?
Anyhoo ... Eddie meets a gorgeous, lively, seemingly intelligent woman, Lila (Malin Akerman). After a whirlwind courtship -- and the simpatico exchange of Ziggy Stardust underpants -- the two wed and speed off to a Mexican vacation. The honeymoon turns sour en route: Eddie never noticed that Lila likes crappy music ... or pretzel-position sex ... or that her nose doesn't work right ... and so on. Buyer's remorse sets in before the not-so-happy couple catches their first Cabo sunset.
But wait! At the resort, Eddie meets Miranda (Michelle Monaghan), the sporty, down-to-earth girl of his dreams. So Fast Eddie romances Miranda while Lila lies ill -- so charming -- until The Truth Comes Out, sending Kid into its tedious last-reel death throes of comic contrition and absolution.
Stiller punches the clock here, reprising his suffering fool. Monaghan does what she can with her underwritten role, while Akerman, whose flighty effervescence is reminiscent of Cameron Diaz, is a bright spot. Her character is the supposed villain of the story, yet Akerman is winsome beneath the wackiness. Supporting characters range from Rob Corddry's amusing hen-pecked husband to Carlos Mencia's painfully unfunny jiving Mexican.
Heartbreak Kid's only significance may be that it marks the passing of vulgar-for-its-own-sake humor. At each "outrageous" taste-busting gag, I registered only deafening silence from the audience. The Farrellys should spend a movie-night at home perusing the works of the new King of Naughty Comedy, Judd Apatow -- The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up and Superbad. Yeah, these films, like Kid, easily earn their R ratings: They're unafraid to get nasty and are wildly profane. But, unlike the Farrellys' hapless retread, each ultimately has more heart than crushed pussy.