Love isn’t the only thing that blows about The Heartbreak Kid! Zing! Ok, now that I have that out of my system I will say that The Heartbreak Kid wasn’t that bad. It had some funny moments and Ben Stiller was his normal neurotic self, but outside of that most everything else was a mess. The problem with movies like The Heartbreak Kid is that they don’t know whether to be gross out screwball comedies or whether to be more of a heartfelt romantic comedy. Instead they fall somewhere in between and the result is a film with very uneven tone and characters who feel underdeveloped and uninteresting. None of those things lead to a good movie and it’s a shame that the Farrelly brothers have fallen so far after There’s Something About Mary.
If you haven’t seen the movie, you don’t necessarily have to read a plot synopsis to catch up, but just take my word for it when I say the characters in The Heartbreak Kid do some terrible things. The plot is littered with infidelity, dishonesty, and just general mean and thoughtless behavior, but that’s not why it’s a bad movie. Plenty of contemporary raunchy comedies are filled with characters who have questionable moral compasses, just look at The Hangover or Grown Ups. We watch movies like The Heartbreak Kid because they are full of outrageous scenarios that we would never want to experience first hand. It can be fun to watch people squirm, but for the movie to ultimately succeed, the characters have to be likable throughout the film. It isn’t enough for the lead character to have a moral breakthrough at the end of the movie; it will just feel hollow and unearned without actual character development. It is ok for Phil to be a douche-bag for the entirety of The Hangover because we know deep down he actually is a solid person who cares for his friends. The movie tells us this through his attitude and demeanor, and while his actions aren’t altruistic, we can forgive him.
The Heartbreak Kid never makes that same connection to its characters, and its frustrating because it easily could have. Eddie, Ben Stiller’s character, is put in a terrible situation. He’s had a rough few years finding love and the one time he rushes into a decision it turns out he married a psychopath. We can certainly empathize with him, but it’s not enough to justify how poorly he treats everyone else in the film. There are no consequences to his decisions and even when things fall apart, I found myself happy that he had failed. That is not a good thing when you are trying to push the love story aspect of your movie. The ending should have set itself up as a moment of redemption for Eddie. Instead it allows him to wallow in the terrible choices he made, and then out of the blue try to win the girl of his dreams back. He doesn’t make any personality changes or revert to being the likable person at the beginning of the film. Instead we watch him desperately beg for happiness and the film happily gives it to him. It tries to pull it away at the very end, but at that point it was too little, too late. I had already given up hope that any of the characters of the film would make me feel anything other than anger, and anger isn’t the best emotion to feel when watching a romantic comedy.
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