I wish I could be a fly on the wall whenever Peter and Bobby Farrelly pitch their latest project. Wouldn't you love to have seen the look on the face of the exec who had to decide whether or not Dumb and Dumber should get the greenlight? But by the time the filmmaking brothers concocted Stuck on You, Fox probably gave them a budget and told them "just make the movie already." Their latest opus mixes good laughs and a meaningful story, much like their previous film Shallow Hal attempted, only this picture is more successful. Instead of a comedy with stilted jokes and a hackneyed story, Stuck on You is sweet, honest, and amusing.
The Farrelly Brothers make you laugh at the main characters' plights but never at the leads themselves -- two siblings who are the full-fledged heroes of the film. Although these brothers share a medical condition that gets them into comedic scrapes, Stuck on You doesn't point and laugh at their unusual physical condition.
Bob (Matt Damon) and Walt (Greg Kinnear) have grown up extremely close to one another. They'd have to be, since the guys are conjoined twins, and since their shared liver is mostly on Bob's side, they've spent their whole lives together. Yet they still lead normal lives, having excelled in high school sports and opened their own fast food joint in Martha's Vineyard. But lately, Walt has been yearning to stretch his acting talents beyond the stage and into the movies. Bob, on the other hand, enjoys his simple life of flipping burgers, but he eventually agrees to help his brother realize his dream by moving out to Hollywood.
Once in Tinseltown, though, the relationship between Bob, who wants to romance an online pen pal (Wen Yann Shih), and Walt, who lands a gig on a show co-starring Cher (playing the worst version of herself possible), becomes tested, as one brother tries to break into showbiz, the other searches for love, and both overcome the nine-inch chunk of flesh connecting them to show the world what they can do.
Now don't go rolling your eyes yet. Stuck on You might sound like a particularly awkward TV movie of the week, but in actuality it's a light, fun romp that stays true to its characters, their spirit, and a promise never to let them be the butt of a joke. The fact that Bob and Walt are conjoined twins is taken seriously, allowing the filmmakers to surround them with a sense of humor about the things they can do despite their condition. A lesser comedy would probably throw a number of tasteless gags onto the plate without bothering to feature a couple of likable guys as the lead characters. Stuck on You knows better and injects quite a bit of charm into its premise.
The film is never really laugh-out-loud funny, at least in comparison to Dumb and Dumber, but the script is peppered with good-natured humor and little jokes here and there. I enjoyed watching how Bob and Walt manage to land jobs in Hollywood, work together to rule in a barroom brawl, deal with a sleazy agent/retirement home inhabitant (Seymour Cassel), and carry on their own respective romantic relationships, all while they remain literally at each others' side.
As mentioned before, Stuck on You doesn't concentrate so much on what the brothers can't do as a result of being biologically bound together but rather what they can do, how they rise above obstacles with a smile on their faces and without leaving the audience with a dreadfully corny aftertaste. Stuck on You respects the characters, but it still remembers to have a little fun, laced with a toned-down dose of the Farrellys' trademark irreverent humor (a running bit with a man and a buddy who gets hit by a dart is hilarious).
The movie may be disappointing in terms of delivering truly hearty laughs, but Stuck on You compensates by displaying an ensemble cast of actors whose charm helps carry the film for its two-hour running time. Damon and Kinnear represent combined personalities, the former a shy guy who wants a simple life and the latter a womanizer who wants to see his name in lights. They form a fun comedic tag-team, admirable not only for how well they work together but how they've put up being harnessed together for a two-hour film. Bright supporting players highlight the action, especially Cassel as the two-bit, scooter-driving agent, the talented Eva Mendes as a hopeful actress the brothers befriend, Wen Yann Shih as Bob's equally shy girlfriend, and Cher herself, who has a ball poking fun at her own diva image in playing a character who hires the brothers for the sole purpose of wanting her show to fail. Even director Griffin Dunne appears, giving his own Hollywood career a good ribbing.
Overall, my complaints are few, but some things do drag this flick down a bit. The Farrellys always have a problem with good premises matched up with overlong running times, and Stuck on You is no exception. At a little over two hours, the humor seems spread quite thin, and the energy of the jokes winds down before the picture's corny but surprisingly effective climax. There simply isn't much to cover here about Siamese twins (or, as Bob would say, "We're American!"), and Stuck on You uses up that material in about 90 of the movie's 120 minutes. Nevertheless, the film leaves you with a good feeling without beating you over the head about morals and values. Fortunately, the charm of the performers brings this project to life, especially the teaming of Damon and Kinnear as two guys who would be funny whether or not they were joined together.
MY RATING: *** (out of ****)
(Released by 20th Century Fox and rated "PG-13" for crude and sexual humor and some language.)
Review also posted at www.ajhakari.com.