Courtesy Photo
115 minutes | Rated: R
Opened: Wednesday, July 15, 1998
Directed by the Farrelly Brothers

Starring Ben Stiller, Cameron Diaz, Matt Dillon, Chris Elliot, Lee Evans, Lin Shaye, Jeffrey Tambor, W. Earl Brown, Markie Post, Keith David

This film received an honorable mention on the Best of 1998 list.


The Farrellys know their movies are big renters/buyers and shot accordingly. No need to hunt for wide screen version. HOWEVER, be forewarned that "Mary" won't seem half as funny without a crowd of people laughing ashamed and uncontrolably.

Sicko 'Something' appallingly funny -- if you're not easily offended

I don't remember the last time I laughed as hard at a movie as I did at "There's Something About Mary."

Co-written and directed the Farrelly brothers -- the reigning kings of idiot humor, responsible for "Dumb and Dumber" and "Kingpin" -- it is vulgar, raunchy, juvenile and tasteless. Sometimes it's flat out sick.

Yet, somehow, it's a also kind of a sweet romantic comedy. Go figure that.

Trying to stretch their appeal beyond moviegoers who can readily adopt the mind set of a 13-year-old boy, the Farrellys' third feature centers around a former teenage geek (Ben Stiller) who a dozen years after high school still can't forget the campus beauty queen (Cameron Diaz), who he had a chance with once and blew it in the most embarrassing way imaginable.

Opening in the mid-1980s, the Farrelly's start with a glimpse of Stiller in braces, a reject concert-roadie hair style and a windbreaker, playing terminally insecure, pimply-faced Ted. Although he reeks of nerdom, Ted scores a prom date with Mary, his radiant dream girl, after jumping in to defend her mentally handicapped brother against a band of jerk jocks.

Arriving at her house in a hideous tuxedo and driving his mom's station wagon, Ted asks to use their bathroom while he waits for Mary, and in his abject nervousness proceeds to, well, get caught in his zipper -- so severely that he winds up at the emergency room instead of the prom.

Because this is a Peter and Bobby Farrelly movie, the zipper fiasco is a run-on gag. Piling joke on top of joke, the bit lasts at least five minutes, and while before long you're absolutely ashamed to still be laughing, it just can't be helped. The scene gets funnier and funnier and funnier.

In case I haven't made this clear, let me say right now that the humor in "Mary" is appallingly base and the family jewels gag is only a warm-up. This is not a movie to see with grandma. But the laughs do have fairly broad appeal. At a preview screening last week, a good 20 minutes of the dialogue was drown out by helpless, howling laughter from the entire audience. Even my friend Viki, who is a virtuous, church-going girl, was cracking up uncontrollably.

After establishing his complete embarrassment, "Something About Mary" jumps to present day, where Ted is still a bit of a loser and has Mary on the mind more than ever. Determined to find her and take another shot at romance, he hires a smarmy, pencil-mustachioed private eye (Matt Dillion) who finds her in Florida. But the detective falls in love himself, setting off a ruthless, backhanded competition for Mary's affection.

Stiller's raison d'etre has always been ill-at-ease characters, and he plays Ted like he's the culmination of his entire career. Dillion has always been a great grease ball, and turns it up full volume for this movie.

But those two have it easy compared to Diaz, who is in a tough spot as Mary and strikes an amazingly nimble balance between her character's endearing preciousness and the movie's twisted humor. She's supposed to be a doctor and perpetually single, neither of which I buy for a second, but it's readily apparent why every guy in the cast falls in love with her (the competition gets heavier as the film goes on) -- she's funny, friendly, flirty, perky, dead sexy and never wears a bra.

A romantic comedy for the "South Park" set, "There's Something About Mary" has masturbation and ejaculation jokes, sight gags involving French-kissing dogs and saggy breasts, serial killer and stalker comedy, retard jokes, cripple jokes and racial humor -- just in the first half of the movie.

But if you can check your sensitivities at the door, you'll be rolling on the floor laughing.

The one real problem with "There's Something About Mary" is that its machine gun approach to comedy creates a vacuum whenever it pauses, even for a minute, to advance the story with straight plot. There are a few scenes that in context are downright boring.

A note to Farrelly movie fans: Watch for Lin Shaye, the hideous landlady from "Kingpin," as Mary's leather-tanned, platinum-wigged Miami neighbor. She's the movie's biggest scene-stealer, again.

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