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Originally published October 5, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified October 5, 2007 at 2:01 AM

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Movie review

"The Heartbreak Kid" | Humorous, naughty and silly

At least one theatrical trailer for "The Heartbreak Kid" made the new Farrelly brothers comedy, a remake of Elaine May's perceptive 1972...

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review 3 stars

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"The Heartbreak Kid," with Ben Stiller, Malin Akerman, Michelle Monaghan, Jerry Stiller, Rob Corddry, Carlos Mencia, Danny R. McBride. Directed by Bobby and Peter Farrelly, from a screenplay by the Farrellys, Scot Armstrong, Kevin Barnett and Leslie Dixon, based on a Neil Simon script adapted from a short story by Bruce Jay Friedman. 108 minutes. Rated R for strong sexual content, language, crude humor. Several theaters.

At least one theatrical trailer for "The Heartbreak Kid" made the new Farrelly brothers comedy, a remake of Elaine May's perceptive 1972 hit, look sadly and unappetizingly broad. As with the sibling directors' appealing 1998 hit, "There's Something About Mary," however, "The Heartbreak Kid" turns out to be closer to a seamless balance between outré gags and romantic whimsy.

The film, which is the first collaboration between Bobby and Peter Farrelly and star Ben Stiller since "Mary," won't get any prizes for its nuanced examination of the human heart. But it is straightforward and honest about the absurd, if sometimes defensible, price of placing desire above reason. It is also, yes, extremely funny at times.

Updating Neil Simon's original script for May's film, the new " Heartbreak Kid" finds Stiller in Charles Grodin's original role, albeit with a minor name change. Stiller's Eddie Cantrow is the never-married proprietor of a San Francisco sporting-goods store. Pressured by his sex-crazed dad (Jerry Stiller) and overly domesticated best friend (Rob Corddry) to woo Lila (Malin Akerman), an attractive environmentalist who seems poised and demure, Eddie takes a leap of faith and marries her after a short courtship.

It takes no time at all for the new Mrs. Cantrow, while on her honeymoon in Mexico, to reveal herself as a harridan, sexual lunatic, unworldly naif and all-around annoyance. Eddie makes several honest stabs at harmony, but then falls for the far-more-adorable Miranda (Michelle Monaghan), latest avatar of the Farrellys' fantasy of winsome sweethearts who double as durable best buddies.

Stiller and the Farrellys have a lot of fun keeping Eddie on his toes while he strains to keep Lila and Miranda in the dark about one another. An agreeable supporting cast (another Farrelly trademark) — particularly Carlos Mencia as Eddie's amoral ally and Danny R. McBride as Miranda's bossy cousin — get a lot of mileage out of the inevitable confusion. A hysterical scene involving nearly every character in the movie and the cure for a jellyfish sting is one of the directors' best achievements to date (a little Blake Edwards, a little Jerry Lewis), and won't soon be forgotten.

The film throws caution to the wind in its final half-hour, crossing over into pure silliness. Yet the jokes hit their target and the romantic momentum is a lock. The one question, for fans of the original movie, is whether the Farrellys will honor the ambiguous, unsettling ending of the Simon-May version of the story. In their fashion, the brothers come through.

Stiller is very good, but the film's secret weapons are Akerman and Monaghan. The former delivers a really adventurous and surprisingly rounded performance while the latter keeps a somewhat two-dimensional role warm and full-blooded.

Please note, though, that unlike a lot of the Farrellys' movies, this one is not for kids, even sophisticated ones.

Tom Keogh: tomwkeogh@yahoo.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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