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There's Something About Mary

movie review by
Gary Johnson

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There's Something About Mary is one of the funniest movies of the past decade. It's also one of the crudest movies ever made. Following Dumb and Dumber and Kingpin, directors/writers Peter and Bobby Farrelly have delivered a movie that on the surface appears to be a light romantic comedy: a man searches for his long lost love. But in the midst of the love story, we also get some of the crudest jokes imaginable. However, unlike many movies where the crude jokes make you cringe but not laugh, the Farrelly Brothers thrive on crudity. This movie goes where no movie has ever gone before, providing some of the most inspired bad taste of any movie on record.

Ever since their ill-fated prom date, when he got his family jewels caught in his zipper, Ted Stroehmann (Ben Stiller) hasn't been able to stop thinking about Mary (Cameron Diaz). Now, over a dozen years later, he decides to hire an investigator to find her. The investigator, Pat Healy (Matt Dillon), finds Mary in Miami; however, as Healy turns his binoculars in her direction and watches her disrobe, he immediately falls in love. He tells Ted that she's confined to a wheelchair and weighs "a deuce a deuce and a half," with four kids by three different men--"but no rock." Ted won't rest, though, until he actually sees her. So he ventures to Miami and finds Dillon is busy courting her. What will happen when Ted meets Mary again? Can he dislodge Dillon from her affections? Will true love prevail?

The plot itself is the stuff of classic romantic comedy (minus the zipper incident). However, the Farrelly Brothers are more interested in the Three Stooges than they are Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. Therefore, they provide exaggerated physical comedy in the Three Stooges mold. For example, in one scene, Matt Dillon tries to give a dog a two-fingered poke in the eyes (the kind that Moe perfected against Curly), but the dog blocks the poke by raising his paw. All that's missing are the nyuck, nyuck, nyuck, nyucks.

In addition, the set designs reinforce a cartoonish atmosphere by emphasizing garish color schemes of neon intensity. Even the characters themselves are surreal. For example, Magda (Lin Shaye), Mary's wily housemate, has skin so tanned that it looks like leather. And Chris Elliott play's Ted's friend: as he accompanies Ted to Miami and becomes more involved in Ted's affairs, his skin starts breaking out in ugly blisters. Meanwhile, Healy (Dillon) is so enamored of Mary that he'll do whatever it takes to win her: after he hears her say that she likes a big "mouthful of teeth" he has his own teeth capped. The results are so exaggerated that he looks like a comic book character.

There's Something About Mary is a crazy, fun house of a movie, a delightfully distorted comic vision that brims with hyperactive motion and color. (However, this movie isn't for everyone. The movie is motivated by a wickedly perverse sense of humor that revels in shocking the audience. So consider yourself forewarned.)

[rating: 3½ of 4 stars]

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