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Movie Review: There's Something About Mary -- There's a reason movies don't make fun of handicapped people

By Vladimir V. Zelevinsky
Staff Reporter

Directed by Bobby Farrelly and Peter Farrelly

Written by Ed Decter, John J. Strauss, Bobby Farrelly, Peter Farrelly. With Cameron Diaz, Matt Dillon, Ben Stiller, Lee Evans, Chris Elliott

There's a good reason that there are very few jokes which make fun of handicapped people. All consideration of taste and propriety aside (and I'm convinced that all taboos are off when a good joke is concerned), the reason is painfully obvious when you watch There's Something About Mary, a new "romance" from the Farrelly brothers, creators of Dumb and Dumber and Kingpin. Working in the spirit of Tom Lehrer's "National Make Fun of Handicapped Week," this film clearly explains the dearth of such jokes. Simply put, they are not funny.

There's Something About Mary features the immortal story of "boy meets girl, boy loses girl when a certain body part becomes the victim of a freak accident, boy starts stalking girl." The boy in question is a nerdy Ted Stroehmann (Ben Stiller, sporting weird teeth, ears, and hair), and the girl in question is Mary (Cameron Diaz, positively radiating charisma). There are a few more components in this simple and touching love story: a sleazy private investigator, Pat Healy (Matt Dillon with a moustache which looks like a dead earthworm), who starts stalking Mary; a dweeby architect (Lee Evans, previously seen in Mouse Hunt), who starts stalking Mary; Ted's buddy Dom (Chris Eliot, with the award-winning-caliber makeup boiling all over him), who starts. Well, by now you get the idea.

Mixed up into this heartwarming narrative are the jokes, which deal with subjects including, but not limited to: masturbation, various bodily fluids, gays, serial killers, sagging breasts, and, of course, aforementioned attempts to cue humor from mental and physical handicaps and stalking.

Let me make one thing perfectly clear - I don't object to jokes based on any of the above because of the subject matter. One could simply rent A Fish Called Wanda and see a good number of riotously funny sequences which deal with such subjects as marital infidelity and stuttering. No, the reason why I didn't find There's Something About Mary funny was that most of the "envelope- pushing" jokes simply didn't work. I'm somewhat dumfounded pondering how anyone could think it was possible to successfully elicit laughs from this subject matter.

That's not to say that this film is completely devoid of any pleasures. Some of the simpler jokes elicit a chuckle or two (such as the sight of Matt Dillon with huge fake teeth), and there are two (unfortunately, short) sequences which left me roaring with laughter - both of these, significantly, dealing with a small obnoxious dog (curiously enough, this was also hilariously dealt with in Wanda).

And, of course, there's something about Mary - namely, the fact that she'd played by Cameron Diaz. Not only is Diaz one of the most appealing young actresses these days (if not the most appealing one), she is also making huge leaps in her quality of acting with each movie. Last summer, she not only effortlessly out-acted Julia Roberts in My Best Friend's Wedding, but also supplied the essential somber note to that fluffy concoction. The work she does in Mary is quite amazing, especially considering that she's not even playing a character - Mary is the filtered embodiment of a (stereotypical) male fantasy: she's beautiful, independent, sweet, likes football, hot dogs, and under-achievers. No wonder she ends up as the center of a love pentangle.

Overall, however, Mary is still a disappointment. I dearly wish the Farrelly brothers would spend more effort making their jokes work, instead of pushing the envelope. Their effort is meaningless anyway, because this envelope simply doesn't exist - the jokes either are funny or they aren't, and some subject matter simply doesn't provide enough material to make the jokes funny.