Expectations can’t help but be high when you read the credits: The Farrelly brothers. Ben Stiller. An R-rated comedy. It’s almost like it’s 1998 and Cameron Diaz is slicking back her hair with that infamous gel. Then “The Heartbreak Kid” actually begins, and with each passing minute, our expectations slide lower and lower.

Jessica Boullion
“What, am I not relevant anymore?” (Courtest of Paramount)

Eddie Cantrow (Ben Stiller, “Dodgeball”) is a single 40-something who can’t seem to commit to any one woman. Then along comes Lila (Malin Akerman, “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle”), who seems too good to be true. Turns out she is, and on their disastrous honeymoon, Eddie meets and falls in love with Miranda (Michelle Monaghan, “Mission: Impossible III”).

Naturally, because it’s Stiller and this is a romantic comedy, awkward meetings abound, mostly involving body parts. Each situation resonates uncomfortably, though, because the filmmakers try to coat the entire disgusting spectacle with sweetness. It’s not very often that a film actually features a scene involving a donkey having sex with a woman and tries to play it off as a romantic-date montage. Not too surprisingly, it doesn’t work.

And it’s not just the comedy that doesn’t come together – the romance is shaky at best. OK, let’s suspend all disbelief here and pretend two people can actually fall in love in two days without knowing anything about each other. Fine, but shouldn’t the chemistry between Miranda and Eddie at least be believable? Not only does she look and act 20 years younger than him, their interactions are totally contrived.

The film’s other major hang-up lies in the fact that Eddie just isn’t likeable enough for us to care about whether or not he gets the girl. His arrogance and complete lack of regard for anyone’s feelings but his own would send any self-respecting woman running for the hills. If you like him at all in the beginning, it’s totally gone by the time it sinks in that he’s seeing another woman while on a honeymoon with his new wife. Let’s not mince words here: This guy’s an asshole.

The romancing of another woman on his honeymoon is supposed to be forgivable because his wife is such a loon. But what makes her so crazy? So she likes to sing along to the radio and is into really kinky sex – most guys would probably be able to move past that. It’s really Stiller’s character with the problem.

The film isn’t helped by its so-called wacky supporting characters – Eddie’s father (Jerry Stiller, “Zoolander”) and the loony Mexican hotel worker (the self-hating Mexican comedian Carlos Mencia) – that only serve to drag the film down even more with their increasingly unnecessary scenes. Unless you think hearing Jerry Stiller use the phrase “crushing pussy” more than three times (or even once) is necessary.

It’s a shame really that a film with so much potential falls so flat. It’s all there – the vulgarity, the gross-out humor, Stiller acting flustered – but the material just never connects. This thin film stretches even thinner when the Farrellys throw in disgusting images to disguise the lack of actual comedy. You can’t substitute genitals for heart, a lesson the brothers seriously need to learn. Focus on actually making your audience laugh before you gross them out.

The Heartbreak Kid

At Quality 16 and Showcase

Paramount

Rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars

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