Directed by Peter and Bobby Farrelly. USA. 2004.

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Are comedy and controversy still joined at the hip for the Farrelly Brothers?

Peter and Bobby Farrelly could never be accused of being the kind of filmmakers that shy away from controversy; on the contrary, they wine it, dine it, seduce it and make it breakfast in the morning. Heralded as the true originators of the so called ‘Gross out’ genre, this category of film can be relied upon to contain an amalgamation of black comedy, lavatorial humour, sexual innuendo and whatever issues are deemed politically incorrect in the current social climate. Therefore the Farrelly’s catalogue of successes like Dumb and Dumber (1994), There’s Something about Mary (1998) and King Pin (1996 ) illustrate that their fine mixture of vulgarity and contention has struck a chord in the consciousness of the modern cinematic audience, where the outspoken, witty and commonly distasteful films rally against the claustrophobia and stifling of free expression that relentless political correctness has generated in society. Their latest outing, Stuck on You, ventures once again into the territory of the taboo as it presents as its main characters, Bob (Matt Damon) and Walt (Greg Kinnear) who are twins conjoined from birth at the hip. Walt is the twin with the ambition, who tired of starring in local plays, decides to move to Hollywood in order to find fame and fortune. But wherever Walt goes, unsurprisingly, so does Bob. He is the introverted twin who enjoys the comfort of his hometown, but who finds himself in a dilemma when he meets for the first time his Internet girlfriend May (Wenn Yah Shih), who is unaware that he has a conjoined twin.
It opens promisingly with Bob and Walt at work in the kitchen of a diner, where the promise is made to its customers that their order will be cooked in three minutes or the order is free of charge. What ensues is a scene in which Walt and Bob’s predicament, along with the logistics of how they move and work together and a visualisation of the aphorism ‘Two heads are better than one’, are all served up in the three minutes it takes to cook the order. This cuts down on the necessity of lengthy exposition or awkward introductions and launches the audience into the lives of the Bob and Walt in one short scene. However it is also in this opening scene that the film sets itself up for a downfall, as it has Bob and Walt humiliating a customer who dares to mock Rocket (Ray Rocket Valliere), the disabled waiter who works at the diner. Whilst such victorious moments where characters get to deliver their big moral speech are predictably located towards the end of the film so as to build up the climax and drive home the message of the heart of the story, Stuck on You presents its rousing oratory on the dignity and equality of disability in the first ten minutes of its opening scene. This is not only confusing for the viewer, who deluged with jokes and images of disability, feels guilty about laughing at the Farrelly’s loosely manufactured gags, but casts a general ambiguity over the weakly constructed plot line. 

In previous Farrelly comedies, topics of sensitivity and moments of base humour have been put under the spotlight and exposed outright, causing the popular cringe-making moments that undoubtedly pull in the audiences and fuel the hype surrounding the film. But without an obvious ‘gross out’ moment in Stuck on You, it fails to even hit the expected generic factors that are inherent in a Farrelly Brothers movie.  Following the rather hackneyed storyline of small town dreamers moving to Hollywood in order to find fame, the characters never seem to be able to develop or break out of the rather placid roles prescribed for them by the tired script. Whereas earlier Farrelly productions such as Dumb and Dumber and King Pin incorporated extreme caricatures that stood out in the storyline with added zest and energy which made the outrageous humour work so well, Stuck on You denies the audience of such comedic portrayals and maintains a rather prosaic plateau throughout the films painful two hour duration. 

Damon and Kinnear put in solid performances and are likeable but never manage to lift the comedy beyond the obvious and the clichéd moments, lacking the kind of way out personas and humour that made Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels such a potent double act in Dumb and Dumber. The casting of Cher as the egotistical actress who dupes Walt into starring with her in a pilot television show crosses the boundaries of irony and makes you wonder whether she is just playing a cameo role instead. When she is on screen, the only humour to be sought from the scenes is to watch just how little of her face she can actually move nowadays, whereas the only interest that Eva Mendez brings to the screen as neighbour April, is in the way of how little clothing she can get away with without the certification being graded higher than a 12A. The only consistently funny performance is from Seymour Cassel who plays Walt’s suspect agent in Hollywood. Unfortunately he is given little screen time, and if the sight of an elderly man in a badly fitted wig is the main source of laughs for a comedy, then I feel that the Farrellys seriously need to reassess their style. Unable to carry the initial concept of conjoined twins beyond the trite observations inherent in the first couple of scenes, Stuck on You never allows itself to become anything more than a tired stream of jokes which rely solely on the fact that the two brothers are joined together. Stuck on You circles around the kind of controversy and extreme comedy that the Farrelly’s are famed for, and presents itself as an amusing idea unfortunately lengthened out into an inadequate script. With the most obscure and frankly embarrassing ending based around a staged version of Bonnie and Clyde, along with slack editing throughout, Stuck on You is unfortunately not a comedy that will stick in your mind for long.

Lucy Reynolds
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