There’s Something About Mary

There’s something about Mary, all right. She’s a babe. Not just any babe, but a sweet, good-natured, smart and successful babe. From the moment we meet Mary (Cameron Diaz), it’s love at first sight. You can see why the male characters in “There’s Something About Mary” fall all over themselves trying to be the light in her eyes.

In any other film maker’s eyes, “There’s Something About Mary” would be a sweet and innocent romantic-comedy with the emphasis on romance. Lucky for us, director brothers Bobby and Peter Farrelly are not like other filmmakers. Their first two films, “Dumb and Dumber” and “Kingpin,” proved that they had the ability to push the envelope without sacrificing the characters or plot. Even at their most extreme, their characters manage to stay grounded, making their outrageous behavior even more funny.

“There’s Something About Mary” is their most accomplished film to date, and their most audacious. I was amazed that “Kingpin” skirted by with a PG-13 rating. “Mary” is rated R, and with good reason. The jokes are bigger, bolder and nastier, the laughs uncontrollable. Ben Stiller is wonderful as the nebbish Ted Stroehmann, a high school senior with a mouth full of metal and a geek haircut. That doesn’t stop new student Mary Jenson (Diaz) from asking Ted out to the prom after he stands up for Mary’s retarded brother Warren (W. Earl Brown).

It’s one of the film’s many magical moments, the honest emotional bridges that connect the jokes. When Ted arrives to pick Mary up, he uses the bathroom to relieve himself while Mary fixes a broken strap. Nervous about the date, Ted catches his frank and beans in the zipper. Needless to say, Ted doesn’t make the prom. Fifteen years later, Ted is still pining over Mary. Even his psychiatrist sneaks out during sessions.

To help Ted move on with his life, his friend Dom (Chris Elliott) suggests that he hire a private detective to find Mary. Enter Pat Healy (Matt Dillon with one of those wonderfully sinister pencil moustaches), a smarmy P.I. who takes the assignment. Mistake number one. When Healy finds Mary, he’s instantly smitten, and decides to use his eavesdropping skills to learn her likes and dislikes and then walk into life as the perfect man.

Healy reports back to Ted that Mary is a 250 pound wreck with three kids and on her way to Japan as a mail-order bride. Disappointed, Ted backs down, leaving Healy all the room he needs to move in on Mary. Classic set-ups and not-so-classic payoffs permeate the proceedings. When Ted realizes that he’s been duped, he heads down to Florida to stop Healy.

His trip is filled with all sorts of unexpected roadblocks, including being arrested and inadvertently confessing to being a serial killer. Poor Mary. Little does she know what she’s in. The Farrelly brothers, along with screen writers Ed Decter and John J. Strauss, have stacked the cards against her, but with Diaz at the helm, she navigates the indignities with charm and innocence. The film finds lots of politically incorrect targets to shoot at, and on most occasions they hit the bull’s-eye.

Even the tasteless moments are presented without apology. You can’t help but laugh. Hit the head before you see the film, because you might wet yourself laughing so hard. Jonathan Richman’s musical interludes are a sweet way to advance the story, sort of a Greek chorus for geeks. Stay for the closing credits, as the entire cast presents a rather unorthodox music video. I laughed until it hurt. Leave the kids at home. This “Mary” is quite contrary.



Ben Stiller, Cameron Diaz, Matt Dillon, Lee Evans, Lin Shaye, Chris Elliott, Markie Post in a film directed by Bobby and Peter Farrelly. Rated R. 118 Min.


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