Review by Dustin Putman
2½ stars out of 4
Since striking box office gold with 1994's "Dumb and Dumber" and 1998's
"There's Something About Mary," writer-director-brothers Bobby and
Peter Farrelly have bypassed the predictable, which would have been
to continue with nothing but sexually explicit, raunchy humor, in
order to teach a form of tolerance about disabilities. 2000's "Me,
Myself & Irene," 2001's "Shallow Hal" (their best film, to date),
and now "Stuck on You" may feature their share of bawdy and decidedly
un-PC moments, but they are primarily good-hearted and well-meaning
human comedies with lead characters who are everything from schizophrenic,
to obese, to mentally challenged, to even albinos.
"Stuck on You," which tells the story of 32-year-old conjoined twin
brothers Bob (Matt Damon) and Walt (Greg Kinnear), is also a comedy,
to be sure, but this time the Farrellys' guffaw-inducing humor is
more muted and not as funny. Its instances of going way over-the-top
as it explores the daily experiences of conjoined twins, such as when
the outgoing Walt is having sex while the more shy Bob is trying to
chat with his Internet girlfriend on the computer, are mostly obvious
and can't get their full comic milea ge with a safe PG-13 rating.
In sole terms of how many laughs it garners, "Stuck on You" stands
as the Farrelly brothers' most uneven and unreliable effort. Where
it makes its zippy two-hour running time worth wading through, then, is in its big heart.
Working as short-order cooks where they never fail to have their customers'
food out in three minutes (otherwise, as the sign says, it's free),
Bob and Walt are loving, emotionally and physically close siblings
living on Martha's Vineyard. Bob is a promising athlete. Walt spends
his free time starring in local plays. And when Walt yearns for a
full-fledged acting career, he and Bob move to Hollywood. By chance,
Walt quickly finds himself starring alongside Cher (playing the exaggerated
diva persona of herself) on a cheesy television series called "Honey
and the Beaze," while Bob doesn't think he has it in him to tell his
adoring, well-matched Internet girlfriend, May (Wen Yann Shih), that
he is conjoined at the waist with his brot her. When Bob and Walt
finally decide to go through with the operation to separate them in
an attempt at easier lives, they also risk being separated in a different
way; because they share a liver, and Bob has most of it, Walt's chance
of survival is 50/50.
In its portrayal of two brothers who have known no other lifestyle
than being constantly together, and who are later faced with going
their separate ways, "Stuck on You" is accurate and often successfully
heartfelt. The sibling relationship between Walt and Bob is a three-dimensional,
touching one. They are as close as two people can possibly be and
they are generous to the other's needs, but they are not above getting
into the occasional spat. The film's best scene is also its most gently
handled, heartbreaking one. As Walt and Bob are about to go under
the knife on the operating table, they tell each other, "I love you,"
and there is an undeniable sense that while they may gain more chances
out of life, they are also about to lose something just as precious.
In what were clearly demanding roles to undertake, Matt Damon (2002's
"The Bourne Identity") and Greg Kinnear (2001's "Someone Like You")
are exceptional at their physical comedy, and even better at bringing
a realistic tenderness to their brotherly bond. Kinnear arguably has
the showier part, since his Walt is more of the go-getter, ladies'
man variety, but it is Damon who really impresses as the nervous,
less outgoing Bob. The fear he expresses about Maywhom he is falling
in love withfinding out about his disability is felt with particular
urgency. It also helps that Damon and sparkling newcomer Wen Yann
Shih, as the unsuspecting May, make an irresistibly cute couple worth rooting for.
Less fully realized in the romance between Walt and daffy aspiring
actress April (Eva Mendes), alth ough it doesn't seem to have been
intended as a major focal point, anyway. The beautiful Eva Mendes
takes a break from her recent string of tough girl cop roles (2003's
"2 Fast 2 Furious," 2003's "Out of Time") to radiantly play April
as a truly likable young woman who hasn't yet been affected with the
full-blown cynicism Hollywood has to offer. Mendes is surprisingly
funny, if somewhat underused, and what is so very nice about the written
treatment of April is the way in which she does not see Walt and Bob
as disabled, but simply fun guys to hang around with. Cher, a proven
fine actress in her own right, gets in on the fun as she devilishly
skews her real-life persona before unmasking deeper, more sympathetic
layers in a lovely late scene between herself and Walt. And Meryl
Streep (2002's "The Hours"), also playing herself, proves she has
it in her to let loose with something more fluffy and broadly comedic than she's used to.
"Stuck on You" actually works better in its dramatic slice-of-life
moments than in its comedy, which is more lightly amusing than fully
satisfying. Perhaps this time out the Farrelly's might have found
it to their benefit to not play certain scenes with such a madcap
style, since it spars with the more reality-based material. "Shallow
Hal," for example, did a better job of mixing these two elements with
just the right measurements. It should also be noted that while the
Farrelly brothers have always enjoyed giving their disabled and handicapped
friends parts in their movies, this is the first time it has called
attention to itself. In many cases, their placement is unnecessary
and even inappropriate, acting as a minor hindrance to the narrative
flow. Regardless, " Stuck on You" works more often than. It is an
engaging and affectionate motion picture that may have its fair share
of problems, but treats its subject matter with surprising adeptness
and leaves you with a smile in your heart.
Copyright © 2003 Dustin Putman