For brothers Bo (Matt Damon) and Walt (Greg Kinnear), life couldn’t be better. They run a successful restaurant, Walt does a little acting, and they are hugely popular in their small Martha’s Vineyard neighborhood; the brothers have it made, relying on each other for support. But they have to: they’re joined at the liver. Bo and Walt are conjoined twins who take life‘s troubles with ease. When Walt gets the itch to move out to California and try professional acting, Bo reluctantly tags along. Soon enough, Walt lands a television series starring opposite Cher, which complicates the twins’ life to a point where they must consider separation for their lives to continue.
There’s a formula to the films of Peter and Bobby Farrelly that cannot be denied. It has survived through so many hit films (“Dumb and Dumber,” “There‘s Something About Mary“), why start complaining nowr Start with an outrageous premise featuring a subject (or subjects) that other filmmakers wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole, add a mixture of comedians, family friends, and dramatic actors trying out their funny bones, then fill the joke-free cracks of the screenplay with a warm, oozing sentimentality that attempts to justify the means. Cook at 350 degrees for two hours. Serves millions.
The last Farrelly concoction, 2001’s “Shallow Hal,” was a unique step forward for the brothers. Here was a picture that took on a huge American taboo (the obese), and featured a subplot set in a pediatric hospital burn ward. And it worked beautifully. However, the laughs were a little less, and the heart a little bigger in “Hal,” signaling a change in the road for the filmmaking duo. “Stuck On You” continues the slinking away from their usual routine. Sure, the premise of conjoined twins is almost unheard of, as is the unique casting of Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear as the twins; but this new Farrelly joint is just a little less funny than what they’ve done before, and it almost seems intentional. Far be it for me to stand in the way of an artistic change, but to see Peter and Bobby strike out with jokes is painful to watch, like Bill Buckner in the 1986 World Series (the basis of a great throwaway joke in the film). “Stuck On You” is more pleasant than laugh out loud funny, and the moments of the oozing sentimentality are force fed into a cinematic belly that cannot take the pressure. For the most part, the film is a solid good time, but this is easily the least of the Farrelly flicks to date, and I‘m even including their live action segment for the animated “Osmosis Jones“ in the count.
Suffice it to say, there’s lots of conjoined twin humor to feast on in the film. The Farrellys don’t let down the audience in showing how Bo and Walt go about their daily lives, including a rare glimpse at how conjoined twins have sex. We see the twins work their hamburger restaurant with amazing nimbleness, conquer any sport they play (often unfairly), watch Bo’s crippling stagefright even though there no actual acting involved for him (hands down, the film’s best gag), and witness the two brothers storm Hollywood, which outside of an old and clueless agent (Seymour Cassel) who demands “Kitty Carlisle money” for Walt’s big gig, doesn’t bring the expected insider humor from films set in tinseltown. Damon and Kinnear are great in their roles, and take a lot of pride in their body movement synchronicity. Damon is especially a joy to watch, as comedy is rarely handed to him. Lost in the focus is Cher, making a small supporting appearance, and unable to keep up with the film’s mood and comedic temperature. Better is Meryl Streep, who has a winning cameo as a celebrity sighting of Walt’s.
There’s a subplot about Bo’s Internet girlfriend that keeps popping up to no decent results, as well as last minute dilemma suggesting a separation for the twins. Usually at this time, the Farrellys go for sweet and sappy, and it has worked in their previous productions. For “Stuck On You,” the brake placed on the gags permanently stops the picture, and it takes a lot of conjoined twin sight gags to restart it.
I’m hoping “Stuck On You” is just a fluke misfire from Peter and Bobby, and they can regroup to deliver something truly shameful and pleasingly unnecessary to the comedic landscape again. That’s what they’re best at.Rating: C+