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There’s Something About Mary (1998)

Hey guys…women like this don’t exist.

And now for two movies about fantasy women.

The first is “There’s Something About Mary,” perhaps the most popular romantic comedy of the late ’90s, and the best film the Farrelly brothers ever made (that’s a low bar.)  Ben Stiller stars as a dorky teenager who somehow gets his dream girl, Mary (Cameron Diaz) to go to the prom with him – and then ends up in the hospital on prom night because of a zipper accident at her house.  It’s a legendary sequence and a good example of the Farrelly sense of humor: both gross and creative, and played out for a long, long time so that it’s not just a gag, it’s the heart of the movie.

Years later, Stiller is still single, and hasn’t forgotten about Mary, so he hires P.I. Matt Dillon to find her and check her out.  Matt Dillon appears to be doing his best Bruce Campbell impression. (What, was Campbell too busy?) Find her he does, but she’s too hot to hand off to another guy, so Dillon tells a like to Stiller, and then uses his investigative skills to find out what kind of guy would have a chance with Mary, and become that guy.

Mary is a fantasy.  She is practically perfect in every way.  She’s hot, but also kind of a dork.  She loves sports.  She never wears a bra. She’s sweet to her leathery old roommate, and even sweeter with the “special” kids, all of whom have a crush on her.  And most important, she’s virginal.  When Stiller asks if she ever did more than kiss Dillon, she’s horrified.  Of course not!

Chris Elliott plays Stiller’s happily married best friend.  If there was any doubt that “Mary” is a male chauvinist fantasy, Elliott’s wife should put it to rest.  The first time we meet her, she offers Stiller a drink.  When he turns it down but says he would like some cookies, she immediately cheerfully retires to the kitchen to bake him some cookies.  Stiller turns to his cigar-smoking buddy and says, “I just want a woman like that.”  The second time we meet her… well, I’ll leave that for you to see (or remember.)  Folks, I hope I don’t have to say this, but women like this — and like Mary — don’t exist.  They shouldn’t exist.  Women shouldn’t be held to these impossibly high, man-centered standards.

So are the Farrelly brothers subtly satirizing the American male’s obsession with the fantasy female, a woman who doesn’t exist, can’t possibly exist? Of course, everyone is in love with Mary, even Packers quarterback Brett Favre, who shows up at the very end.  I’d like to believe that, but the movie never winks.  Maybe if she got away in the end, sailing off into the sunset, leaving all the men, even manly man Favre, standing there looking ridiculous, I’d buy it.  But there’s never any indication from the film that Mary isn’t real.   Romantic comedies are usually women’s terrain — the kind of movie a girlfriend drags her boyfriend to watch.  But I get the feeling that while the guys may be cheering there way through this one, their significant others are feeling uncomfortable and slightly sick to their stomachs.

Verdict: Not Recommended


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Posted in All Reviews.

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