'There's Something About Mary'
Farrelly Brothers laughing all the way to the bank
Web posted on: Monday, July 27, 1998 3:38:16 PM
From Entertainment Weekly Correspondent Jess Cagle
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Depending on who you talk to, "There's Something About Mary," the new gross-out comedy from brothers Peter and Bobby Farrelly, is either filled with cinematic hoots, or it's the definition of cinema gone sour.
Either way, the movie is doing well at the box office, raking in a solid $12.7 million to earn the No. 4 spot at the box office for the second straight week.
"'Mary' was a really strong holdover," said Paul Dergarabedian, vice president of Exhibitor Relations Inc., which tracks box office results. "It only dropped 8 percent from last week. That's tremendous, considering the amount of competition there is. Word of mouth boosted that film big."
'Some people just don't get it'
The word of mouth seems to be coming from people who either love it or hate it. The Farrelly brothers are the new kings of over-the-top comedy, and that is evident in "Mary."
"We never thought this would appeal to everyone," says Bobby Farrelly. "And, you know, some people just don't get it. We're making this movie because we think it's funny."
The writing-directing brothers made their mark with 1994's "Dumb and Dumber." They followed up in 1996 with "Kingpin," an Amish bowling comedy.
Now, it's "Mary," starring Cameron Diaz as the object of just about everyone's affection. Ben Stiller and Matt Dillon play two men battling for her love.
In between, audiences are treated (or maltreated, depending how you see it) to a barrage of low-brow humor, much of it involving private parts and human secretions. There are jokes about the disabled. There's a masturbation gag. A small dog is electrocuted. And a zipper incident involving part of the male anatomy is the most talked-about scene of the movie.
'The cinema of swill'
While the film is enjoying a strong run at the box office, some critics say the humor is the low point of American cinema.
National Public Radio's entertainment critic, Tom Shales, called it "the cinema of swill."
How do the Farrelly Brothers react to the response that they are crossing a line that shouldn't be crossed?
"There's two lines," says Peter Farrelly. "There's a line that the critics will tell you is there. And then there's the real line. And the real line is what we go towards. We never cross that line. Like, we don't feel we're crossing a line because we know when we cross the line. That's when they don't laugh, because the audience won't laugh if it's truly mean-spirited."
Actress Cameron Diaz agrees.
"It's not malicious in any way," she says. "We're not poking fun of anybody really that doesn't deserve it. We're not making fun of mentally challenged people. We're making fun of the people who make fun of mentally challenged people."
The mentally challenged person in the movie is Diaz's character's brother, who has a habit of pummeling anyone who touches his ears.
Funny, 'like Forrest Gump'
Peter Farrelly says he and his brother are not breaking new ground with "Mary."
"It's funny like a movie like 'Forrest Gump,' which is, you know, a feature film about a mentally retarded man," he says, referring to the movie in which Tom Hanks an Oscar for his portrayal of Gump. "When you think about it, a lot of the humor came from laughing at Forrest. But you know that the movie was made with a good heart, and you really care about him. And the moviemaker cares about him."
'We both share the same vision'
The Farrellys became filmmakers after living in the real world for a spell. Peter was in sales; Bobby helped invent "the world's first round beach towel."
Now, after plenty of hard work learning the movie-making business, they've become a solid team.
"I think the reason why it works first of all is there's a different level of trust," Bobby Farrelly says of working with his brother. "And basically we both share the same vision. It's a warped vision, but we share it. And I think that we're able to protect that vision more, because the people that come at you try to get you to water down what it is that you see. And that is something that happens."
The Farrellys aren't "watering down" their humor, despite the criticism they've received. They're already planning a new movie called "Stuck on You." It's a comedy about Siamese twins.
"They're happy to be Siamese twins," says Peter Farrelly. "They feel blessed. But the rest of us have to go through the world alone. And they don't. And because they have this great attitude, they have a lot of friends. They were the kings of the prom. You know, they were in the state championship hockey team. You know, they're the goalie. And it's just they're a couple of winners who happen to be Siamese twins."
The Farrelly brothers are winning, too, laughing all the way to the bank.
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