THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY(director/writer: Peter and Bobby Farrelly; screenwriters: Ed Decter/John J. Strauss; cinematographer: Mark Irwin; editor: Christopher Greenbury; cast: Ben Stiller (Ted), Cameron Diaz (Mary), Matt Dillon (Healy), Chris Elliott (Dom), Lin Shaye (Magda), Lee Evans (Tucker), Jeffrey Tambor (Sully), W. Earl Brown (Warren), Markie Post (Mary’s Mom), Keith David (Mary’s Stepfather), Jonathan Richman (Singer), Brett Favre (Brett); Runtime: 119; Twentieth Century Fox; 1998)
“I wasn’t completely won over with so much comedy that depended on making fun of someone else’s problems.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
“There’s Something About Mary” is a very funny film; it makes the most out of being politically incorrect, profane, obnoxious, and settling for an unsophisticated juvenile humor to tide itself over while the romantic side of its tale fizzles. It makes fun of the retarded, abuses a pet dog, and makes no apology for being so crude.
It starts in Rhode Island, 1985, when the teenage sad sack, Ted Stroehmann (Ben Stiller), is looking for a date to the prom after being cruelly rejected by a calculating coed. But his luck soon changes as he is asked to the prom by the perfect girl, the heartthrob of the high school, Mary Jensen (Cameron Diaz), who favors him when Ted defends her retarded brother Warren (W. Earl Brown) from school bullies. But his prom date turns out to be a disaster. When picking up Mary, he is unmercifully ribbed by her black stepfather (Keith) and is beaten up by Warren. Ted had touched Warren’s ears and Warren doesn’t let anyone touch his ears. Ted then excuses himself to go to the bathroom and is staring at two birds by the window, when they fly away he is spotted by Mary as she is undressing and she thinks he is scoping her. Ted is startled to see her look of disgust and catches himself in his zipper, which results in an hilarious bit. He is taken to the hospital and misses the prom. It is funny because it is so grossly done that, at first, it is hard to believe how far this tasteless gag is going. But, it is taken to the hilt, as the police and fire departments arrive and the neighborhood gets to see an unusual occurrence: the wounded private part.
It is now 13 years later in Rhode Island and Ted is a lonely writer telling his slimy friend Dom (Chris Elliott) that he hasn’t seen the one girl he loves in all that time, only knowing that she moved to Miami Beach. Dom talks him into getting a private eye who works in his place to go down there and see if he can locate her. The sleazy investigator, Pat Healy (Matt Dillon), finds Mary in Miami and falls for her, so much so that he quits his job in Rhode Island and moves to Miami to romance her. To find out what she’s like and what she is looking for in a guy he eavesdrops on her conversations by using a hidden microphone. He sets himself up to become her dream man. But he is so crude that even though he knows exactly what she wants, he still blows it by acting like a jerk.
Ted finds out that the private detective lied about Mary and decides to drive down by himself to see her. Ted picks up a weirdo hitchhiker. When he stops by the road in South Carolina to relieve himself, he stumbles upon a homosexual orgy and is arrested on a live TV news program. Dom, who saw the arrest on TV, will go help Ted. Ted is charged not only with indecent exposure but of being a serial murderer, as the hitchhiker fled the car leaving his bag with chopped up body parts on the front seat. But Ted is soon cleared of the charges and ends up in Miami with Dom.
There are some more phony admirers of Mary to deal with, led by the deceptive Tucker (Lee Evans). He acts as a crippled architect and by duplicitous means gets rid of the boys she’s interested in. Other suitors in hot pursuit are the pencil-thin mustached private eye charlatan, Dom, and football player Brett Favre.
Many of the grossly funny bits work to various degrees; such as, drugging the dog with speed, mocking the mentally retarded kid, having the results of masturbation be used unwittingly by Mary as hair gel, a Chris Elliott with zits all over his face, and the withered bare breasts of an old woman. What didn’t work was how stupid and low the comedy had to go to get its laughs.
This raunchy comedy is created by the Farrelly brothers, who gave us Dumb and Dumber and Kingpin. It’s a winner only for those who don’t mind being grossed out. I must confess that I laughed a lot, but I wasn’t completely won over with so much comedy that depended on making fun of someone else’s problems (not mean-spirited, but not very nice). As an added touch, the film had a singing troubadour, Jonathan Richman, appearing throughout in various settings to sing about Mary and what makes her so special. This film can be seen as a guilty pleasure.
REVIEWED ON 9/23/99 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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