*** out of ****
Well, it had to happen sooner or later. The Farrelly Brothers had to mature (somewhat) at some point and make a film that didn't rely on sex or gross-out jokes. That is apparently the case with Stuck On You, the Farrellys latest and tamest, but it's also one of their sweetest and funniest films to date.
Bob and Walt Tenor (Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear) are conjoined twins who've spent their whole lives in Martha's Vineyard. Bob is the owner of a burger restaurant and Walt is an actor who performs plays for the town's audience, but he has bigger ambitions; he wants to be a Hollywood actor, much to the chagrin of Bob, who suffers from a distinct case of stagefright. But after some discussion and compromise, they agree to move to L.A. and start a new life for themselves.
Upon arrival, Bob and Walt meet the friendly but ditzy April (Eva Mendes), one of their neighbors in the apartment they've just moved into. Bob even meets his internet pen-pal May (Wen Yann Shih), but because he's never told her he has a conjoined twin, he has to "bring" along Walt on their first date together. As for Walt's Hollywood dreams, after some initial lack of success, he's chosen by Cher herself to co-star with her on her new show, "Honey and the Beaze," in an attempt by Cher to sabotage her own series. But the show is an unexpected success thanks to Walt's burgeoning popularity, which puts a crimp in his relationship with Bob.
Reviewing comedies has always been a bit difficult for me, which is why I usually stick to the stuff that I find easier to write about (action/adventure, horror, drama, anything but comedy), but given all the knocks this film has taken (particularly the fact that barely anybody saw it in theaters) I felt a slight sense of obligation to mention that Stuck On You is the funniest and most touching comedy I've seen in recent memory.
This is not to say that the film always had me choking with laughter (though a scene involving a guy in front of his typewriter did get the biggest laugh out of me all year), but rather that it consistently delivered smiles, chuckles, and solid laughs without ever bogging down, no easy feat for a movie that runs for just under two hours.
Aside from the lack of sexual humor, there's a major difference between the style of comedy the Farrellys employ here than in some of their prior films. Whereas many their previous works have often made fun of the people that suffer from certain "disorders," Stuck On You presents us with two friendly, easy-going guys who've grown accustomed to their situation and choose not to see their conjoined liver as a handicap. Rather, the film derives its humor from the way "outsiders" view their condition.
In the film's two lead roles, Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear boast the kind of comic chemistry that most actors can only dream of. Damon, in particular, excels by taking the more "straight man" role, where he's not actually aiming for any laughs but still gets them anyway, maybe even more than the typically hilarious Kinnear. Watching these two guys stuck together reminds me why I find them two of the most likable actors in Hollywood, even when most of Kinnear's characters are generally abrasive losers (but not in this case). It is, in fact, Damon and Kinnear that make the film as wonderfully entertaining as it is. Had not even half of the jokes worked as well as they did, their performances would still warrant this movie a passable recommendation.
Stuck On You doesn't always juggle its various subplots perfectly; while Wen Yann Shih does play well into the film, a lot of brief cameos and a wide assortment of characters aren't meshed in as well. Worst of all is Cher, who's neither funny nor particularly convincing as the "bitch" she's made out to be. I have no idea if this says more about her personality or her acting skills.
Most of the Farrellys comedies generally tend to dissipate in the last half-hour or so, replacing its humor with more sincere attempts at trying to make their irascible and/or "cad-like" protagonists learn a lesson or two. The magic of Stuck On You is that its protagonists are always the same throughout, making no genuine "it's a miracle!" revelations about themselves at the last minute; after all, brotherly love is still brotherly love.
When the last twenty minutes threaten to devolve into sentimental clap-trap, the Farrellys punch in the necessary humor that defuses any of the building sap (spoiler:I think my favorite scene in the whole film is when Bob and Walt re-unite after parting their separate ways, in a scene that's both hilarious and touching), making the film sweet without getting too sweet. The Farrellys have made a lot of funny movies, but this is the first of theirs I can recommend to just about anyone.