The Farrelly Brothers are not easily dismissed. There are those who feel that they have cheapened American comedy ever since There’s Something About Mary (1998). Leonard Maltin would undoubtedly agree with that sentiment. And there are those who simply can’t help but laugh at their raunchy comedies and would prefer not having to think too much about them. The brothers have been criticized for their male-oriented sense of humor and their questionable focus on people with disabilities. Let’s sort that out once and for all. Yes, women are often portrayed in a very positive, albeit somewhat dull light; the comedy is always centered on male sentiments. No, people with disabilities are not ridiculed; the brothers have usually made sure that it is the able-bodied characters that come across as inept in various ways.
Over the years, the prolific and successful Farrelly brothers have offered at least three scenes that made most of us go WTF:
In Hall Pass (2011), Jason Sudeikis’s character gets one week off from marriage and tries, along with a band of brothers that include Owen Wilson, Richard Jenkins and James Belushi’s brother-in-law on According to Jim, to date a number of women, one of which ends up trying to throw up in his bathroom. The solution to her problems will knock you over like spray-paint to the face.
Did this raunchy trend begin with There’s Something About Mary? Perhaps. All I know is that this scene with Ben Stiller and Cameron Diaz became the most talked-about from the movie, as Stiller’s character tries to ease pressure ahead of his date by masturbating – and is unable to find the spot where his cum lands. Diaz makes the mistake of assuming that the white goo is hair gel. A truly “oh no she didn’t” moment.
Then there’s this scene from Me, Myself & Irene (2000) with Jim Carrey making good use of his physical comedy. His unexpectedly wet and wild visit to the bathroom prompts a valid question to Renée Zellweger that made a lot of women (and even some men) in the audience ask themselves, “what the hell is going on here?”.
The Farrelly Brothers have produced a number of movies that have been gentler and sweeter in nature. They include The Heartbreak Kid, Shallow Hal, Stuck on You and The Three Stooges. Still, there’s no way of escaping the fact that when we talk about the Farrelly’s, we talk about scenes like these. Do I feel like the brothers have cheapened American comedy? No. The scenes above made me laugh, shaking my head at the same time. Whether comedy like this works or not will always depend on the scene at hand.
Hall Pass is a recent enough example to reach the conclusion that the brothers will always come back to the comedy that makes us go WTF.