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Stuck On You

Writers on Saturday Night Live must be kicking themselves now. Think of all the goofy yet repetitive possibilities with Siamese Twins that look nothing alike and each want to pursue wildly different career goals. With any luck, it could be spun off into a movie deal.

Except the Farrelly Brothers got there first. In Stuck On You, somehow the writing/directing team manage to keep the one joke aloft, putting the Tenor Brothers into situations that allow for surprising variations on the theme. It's not great. But it is better than it has a right to be.

It helps that The Farrellys have really fleshed out the twins with more than just a 10-inch long slab of skin conjoining them. Bob (Matt Damon) is the more athletic of the two, though he carries a paunch befitting a short order cook. Content with his life as co-owner of the Quickie Burger, he nonetheless does what he can to support brother Walt's (Greg Kinnear) acting aspirations. The support does cause him major panic attacks, and the sight of a sweat-covered Bob trying to hide behind Walt doing a one-man show is definitely one of the highpoint visual gags of the movie.

But Walt isn't content with life in Massachusetts, doing a show annually for an invited audience of his friends. He has his sights set on Hollywood. So used to his acceptance at home, it doesn't phase Walt in the least when somebody slows down on Hollywood Boulevard just to call out, "hey, freak!"

Despite the obvious deformity, the Tenors are easily accepted in person, especially by new neighbor April (Eva Mendes). This continues a long tradition of sweetness to the Farrelly Brothers' films, one that often proves their undoing as they try to combine it with gross-out comedy. The balance is better here than it has been in a while, as they've managed to give Walt and Bob a sense of humor about themselves that allows the jokes to work without being cruel.

They've also managed to give diva Cher the role of a lifetime as a (she says) more evil version of herself. Determined to get out of what she considers a crappy television series commitment, Cher approves the casting of Walt as her leading man (eventually, they use blue-screen to wipe Bob out of the picture).

The very oblivious neophyte can't believe his rags-to-riches situation, nor does he question it. (He has no problem interrupting Meryl Streep having lunch with her "posse," starstruck but unable to comprehend that he's being rude.)

Due to these plot twists, the film runs off course, though some of the jokes stay strong. Stuck On You wants to have it both ways: in the first half, you laugh at how well-adjusted the Tenors are, and then for the sake of melodrama, the world at large turns on them. There's nobody more shallow than April, but she never blinks. However, Bob's long-distance sweetheart May (Wen Yann Shih) runs in horror when she discovers the twins' secret. Though she later recants, the plot enlarges that distaste by having sponsors pulling out of Walt's TV show, Honey and The Beaze, at the revelation of his conjoined status.

No way. Not if there were money to be made.

And so it goes. The film drifts in and out of believability, mainly because nobody other than the twins themselves seems like a real person. Even Cher and Griffin Dunne, though playing themselves, are so obviously sending themselves up (does Dunne really have an image to lampoon?) that they're cut-outs instead of characters.

However, Damon and Kinnear hold the center quite well. There's a real affection between them, and neither ever winks at the audience no matter how ridiculous the scene. Kinnear proves himself particularly good at physical comedy near the end, and takes it completely seriously. As Bob, Damon goes against his perceived persona as a guy that has no clue how to talk to girls (Walt is the one that dates a lot while Bob naps) and tends to say the wrong thing.

The film also has a nice comic gem with Seymour Cassel as the world's worst agent, Morty O'Reilly. Working his magic from a retirement home, it's clear that the world stopped for him as soon as he entered its doors. He doesn't even know that Erik Estrada isn't on CHiPs anymore. It could be a cruel running bit, but Cassel makes it sparkle.

As they have in the past, The Farrelly Brothers have cast a lot of amateur actors, usually family friends and people with special needs. It's laudable, it's cool, and yet in a lot of places, it gets distracting, particularly in a hospital scene where the doctors are clearly missing their mark. Though I guess it helps force the feeling known as "heartwarming," sometimes you just wish these filmmakers would settle down and just make us laugh.

Because when they do, The Farrelly Brothers are really, really good at it.


Derek McCaw

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