`Stuck On You' loses its grip

Movie Review

December 12, 2003|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

Sun Score

2 1/2 - stars

Stuck On You is proof that sweet and funny don't always make for the best mix.

But who would have thought it would have been the Farrelly Brothers who brought that point home? As purveyors of cinematic outrageousness, the Farrellys have known few equals. There's Something About Mary, Dumb and Dumber, Shallow Hal: Each has plumbed comedic depths lesser filmmakers have dared not enter. And while the Farrellys have not been nearly as crass as some critics have suggested - it was the heart behind Mary and Hal that made them resonate, not the dumb jokes - no one would ever mistake their sentimentality for a Hallmark card.

Until now. As though they feel the need for some sort of atonement, Stuck On You finds the Farrellys being uplifting almost to the point where that sentiment becomes as off-putting as anything they've ever done.

Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear play Bob and Walt Tenor, conjoined twins (at the hip) who have spent a lifetime making that disability a non-issue in their lives. We're introduced to them as the owners of Quickee Burger, a Martha's Vineyard diner where the guys have turned their condition into a major plus: Four hands, it turns out, work great when it comes to making a fast hamburger.

The opening scenes in the diner also delineate the movie's world, and Farrelly fans looking for the brothers' typical outlandishness should smell trouble from the start: When an abusive patron dresses down a mentally disabled waiter for getting his order wrong, the Tenors, joined by the restaurant's other patrons, come to his defense. The scene is uplifting, sure, but it's not funny.

The same can be said for much of the movie, which features plenty of triumphant moments for the Tenors, but few that will cause anyone to laugh out loud. In fact, the best bits come early in the movie, in the scenes set on Martha's Vineyard; once Bob and Walt relocate to Hollywood, where Walt wants to pursue his dream of becoming a big-name actor (regardless of Bob, who tends to hyperventilate whenever there's an audience or a camera in front of him), things become rather blah.

For obvious reasons, Walt has trouble landing an acting gig. But then an unhappy Cher (gamely playing herself), desperately trying to weasel out of a TV commitment, insists that he be cast as her co-star in the new private-eye series she's being forced to endure. With Bob carefully (if not always entirely successfully) being cropped out of the frame, the show becomes an unlikely hit - even more so when Walt's "secret" handicap leaks out, and audiences embrace him as the sort of underdog everyone wants to see succeed.

Damon and Kinnear go with the spirit of things, presenting the brothers not so much as two halves of the same whole but as two people who don't let their proximity to each other get in the way of their relationship; it's hard to believe two people so dependent on one another could remain so upbeat, but the actors' easygoing manners make it seem real.

The movie does, however, waste a handful of supporting performances, especially from the women. While Cher and an uncredited Meryl Streep prove good sports, Eva Mendes and Wen Yann Shih barely register. Shih, as Bob's longtime Internet pen pal who's unaware of Walt's necessary omnipresence in his life, comes across as merely dim, while Mendes is present only to wear a bikini and make a crack about silicone implants.

The best things about Stuck On You are the sight gags, and they're not funny in the embarrassing way you might expect. In a clever stroke, the Farrellys consistently present their "handicap" as a benefit; thus, we see Bob and Walt gaining fame as an almost impenetrable hockey goalie, developing a wicked pickoff move to first base, pummeling opponents in the boxing ring (while Bob goes for the stomach, Walt hits 'em in the face). At those moments, the movie is sweet, funny and just the teeniest bit subversive.

But when it's sweet alone, Stuck On You comes across as more an apology than a movie, as though the Farrellys are determined to bury the "politically incorrect" label forever. If that's the case, they seriously shouldn't have bothered.

Stuck On You

Starring Matt Damon, Greg Kinnear, Cher

Written and directed by Bobby and Peter Farrelly

Rated PG-13 (crude and sexual humor, and some language)

Released by 20th Century-Fox

Time 118 minutes

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