Should I Watch..? There's Something About Mary
What's the big deal?
There's Something About Mary is a romantic comedy film released in 1998 and was co-written and directed by the Farrelly brothers, Peter and Robert. It was an unexpected smash, coming as it did after the Farrelly's commercially disappointing Kingpin in 1996, and became the fourth highest grossing film of the year. It also won a considerable number of awards and especially for star Cameron Diaz who was nominated for a Golden Globe. It is worth noting that while it has the usual amount of gross-out humour for a Farrelly brother film, it also has a surprisingly touching romance at its heart that lifts it above the standard of other comedies. It is also, what I believe, to be Ben Stiller's best movie to date. The film went on to earn more than $369 million worldwide.
What's it about?
The film opens in 1985 where goofy loner Ted Stroehmann is unexpectedly asked out to the senior prom by stunningly beautiful new kid Mary Jensen. Turning up at her parents place to pick her up, Ted accidentally catches a glimpse of Mary getting dressed which has the unfortunate side-effect of Ted getting the last thing you'd want to get stuck in a zip stuck in his zip. After general commotion, Ted is rushed to hospital with "a bleeder" and his date with Mary never happens.
Fast forward 13 years and Ted is still thinking about Mary, wondering what happened to her. Encouraged by his friend Dom, Ted hires a sleazy private detective called Pat Healy to find her which he duly does in Miami, Florida. However, Healy falls hopelessly in love with Mary so he sets out to sabotage Ted's chances of getting back with her. In his pursuit of the blonde bombshell, he encounters Mary's disabled English friend Tucker as well as her landlady Magda's vicious little dog Puffy. But as the lies stack up, what hope does Ted have of reuniting with his one true love?
Bobby & Peter Farrelly
Ed Decter, John J Strauss, Bobby Farrelly & Peter Farrelly *
Release Date (UK)
25th September, 1998
What's to like?
From the opening scenes, you know you've got a genuinely funny film. From the overly sweet romanticism of Ted and Mary's high school attraction to the unnecessary and extremely sickening close-up of Ted's accident, the prologue encapsulates the whole film perfectly. You're going to laugh, you're going to barf and you're going to have a good time! It's so good to see a comedy that not just pushes the boundaries of taste but has no qualms about repeatedly pushing them either. And for once, the results are spectacularly good and not just funny because of their taboo-breaking. The film is crammed with sight gags, farcical fight scenes (I defy anyone not to laugh during any scene with Puffy the dog), a strange musical narration and one-liners that might run the risk of being missed with so much on screen to laugh at.
For me, credit is mostly deserved to the cast. Diaz is fabulous, being as funny as she is gorgeous and is the surprising lynchpin of the entire film. Stiller is also brilliant as Ted, bringing a rarely seen softer side to his performance that make him not just funny but also make him feel like a real person too. Alongside them, Dillon is wonderfully obnoxious as Healy while Evans' physical comedy is well suited to the awkward frame of Tucker. The script, while obviously funny, is also generous enough to give all cast members moments to shine and they all seize them like seasoned professionals. It feels like an ensemble effort, especially during the closing credits when the entire cast sing "Build Me Up, Buttercup" by The Foundations.
- Evans' English accent was described by one critic as "possibly the most fake British accent" they had ever heard in a movie. Evans is, of course, English - he originally came from Bristol.
- Matt Dillon and Cameron Diaz were dating each other during the filming of this movie.
- The two detectives who speak to Ted after his arrest are called Stabler and Krevoy. These are the names of the film's producers - Steven Stabler and Brad Krevoy.
What's not to like?
Like almost all films from the Farrelly brothers, taste is an issue. From Mary's mentally disabled brother Warren to Tucker's awkward use of crutches, it seems that there is no depth to which the movie won't sink. If you are a fan of gross-out humour then this won't be a problem - in fact, you'll probably find the movie quite tame these days. But if jokes about ejaculation, masturbation and the politically incorrect aren't your thing then you might want to think twice before watching There's Something About Mary.
The only other that might be an issue is the film's age. The ending with Brett Favre's cameo might look a bit dated these days (I suppose any possible remake would probably throw Tom Brady in there) but by and large, I'm struggling to think of anything I would change. For me, the biggest surprise is Stiller who I'm used to see shouting and getting angry for no reason (think Mystery Men). Here, he's controlled and calm and even likeable. You feel sorry for him and I can't recall any other Stiller movie where that's the case.
Should I watch it?
If it isn't obvious by now then yes, you should. For once, and against all the odds, the Farrelly brothers have produced a movie that isn't just an excuse for idiotic gurning and laughing at the less fortunate - this is a real winner. It's funny without being too smart and romantic without being too girly. When it's not tickling your funny bone, it gives you that lovely warm feeling you get when you think about your own true love.
It's just a shame that neither Farrelly (Bobby or Peter) nor Stiller have recaptured the form they had here. Diaz has probably moved above this sort of fare at this stage of her career so I doubt we'll ever see a sequel. But lightening shouldn't strike twice too often - this is a real gem so if you haven't seen it already, check it out.
Great For: couples, teenagers, fans of gross-out humour
Not So Great For: the prudish, the disapproving, the elderly
What else should I watch?
If you enjoyed There's Something About Mary then chances are, you'll enjoy other films by Bobby & Peter Farrelly - stuff like Dumb And Dumber and Me, Myself And Irene. They might not have the same impact as they tend to go completely overboard but give them a chance. Stay away from Movie 43 though as apparently, it's less fun than a prolonged stay at Guantanamo Bay. It's so bad that most of its A-list cast were effectively blackmailed or otherwise coerced into appearing in it.
A different style of romantic comedy actually comes from these British shores - Shaun Of The Dead adds zombies to the mix but still retains enough heart and gags to make it a thoroughly enjoyable watch indeed. Rom-coms of a more traditional style came be found with the likes of Bridget Jones' Diary, if you must.
© 2015 Benjamin Cox