There’s something to be said for the longevity of gross-out comedy. Yes, the old-school wit of Billy Wilder and Groucho Marx can live on, but there just aren’t that many punch lines that achieve the kind of immortality as, say, a starlet who inadvertently uses semen as hair gel.
At least that’s what Bobby and Peter Farrelly think. The brothers and veteran co-directors believe old-fashioned slapstick is the highest form of comedy, and they kind of proved it with “Dumb & Dumber” and “There’s Something About Mary,” their best-loved movies.
” ‘The Three Stooges’ and that type of comedy we were really big fans of,” said Peter, the elder of the brothers. “If you look back at what was funny in the ’40s, a lot of it is not funny now. It’s just not. But occasionally there is a comedy that lasts, and it’s usually because of physical comedy.”
The brothers sustain this principle with their new movie, the Ben Stiller-led remake of “The Heartbreak Kid.” The film, which opens tomorrow, is an update of the 1972 Neil Simon vehicle that made infidelity farcical as a man finds his true love while on his honeymoon. The Farrellys, who have built their reputation on graphic gross-out humor, said revising the story for a contemporary audience with the now-rare ease of an R rating motivated them to remake the original.
“When we were watching (the original movie), we realized it was just starting to age,” Bobby said.
An opportunity to hit the restart button on a graying work, the Farrellys wanted another crack at the bittersweet. Looking for their signature tropes of compassion coupled with unrestrained gross-out, the brothers sought to produce a romantic escape with dirty jokes to buoy it.
Add to this that the brothers haven’t had a showstopper hit this decade, and the film arrives in a different light. With films like “Superbad” and “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” now dominating the market once monopolized by the brothers, they made it clear they think the genre’s latest movies veer in the wrong direction.
On this summer’s Apatow-directed hit “Knocked Up,” Peter was especially frank: “Here’s a movie about getting a woman pregnant on the first date, and yet, no nudity. The only thing we saw was (lead Seth Rogen’s) ass.
“You can cut heads off before you show a woman’s nipple. It’s a warped way of thinking,” he said.
A little candid for a major studio director, but these two are not shy about what they look for in a comedy. They want you to laugh at frank sexual images, but not without a caring relationship with the characters as well. The brothers said this philosophy is clear in “The Heartbreak Kid.”
“(It’s) about adults, it’s sexual and they’re on their honeymoon,” Bobby said. Added Peter: “This was right for an R rating. It’s much more in our wheelhouse and what we do well. It just takes the cuffs off you.”
Asked about the signature moment that defines most of their movies – the tongue frozen to the pole, the bodily fluid in the hair – the Farrellys promised some good, dirty fun.
“The first couple of scenes that they sleep together, those are the scenes that you’re gonna be talking about long after,” Peter said. “It’s sorta groundbreaking because there hasn’t been a sex comedy like this.”