The Farrelly Brothers’ There’s Something About Mary marked the 25th anniversary of its theatrical release during the summer.
Like many raunchy comedies released in the 1990s and early 2000s, there are aspects that do not age well. When it comes to the comedy, one must watch it through the lens in which it was made. Ultimately though, this is a film about several men who are in love with the same woman, Mary Jensen (Cameron Diaz). The situation is certainly the type that is just ripe for comedy although faking one’s persona just comes across as creepy. Similarly, the private investigator breaks just about every ethics rule in the book while also falling for Mary. I’ll have more on this in a moment.
The Farrelly Brothers set the tone early during a bathroom gag where Ted Stroehmann (Ben Stiller) has an unfortunate mishap with his zipper. You’d have to think that life would be much different without this incident. However, Ted and Mary would lose contact with each other during the next 13 years. It is not until 1998 when now-magazine writer Ted takes Dom Woganowski’s (Chris Elliott) advice and searches for Mary. Unfortunately, Ted hires the worst private investigator of all private investigators, Pat Healy (Matt Dillon). In doing the job, Pat decides that yes, he also wants Mary. If this isn’t enough, pizza delivery guy Norm Phipps (Lee Evans) wants her, too. Pat and Norm/Tucker team up when Mary starts dating Ted. If this isn’t enough, Brett Favre somehow enters the chat.
Interestingly, there’s a universe where Courteney Cox plays Mary instead of Cameron Diaz. Cox didn’t even have an opportunity to decline the row–her agent did so without even informing her about the offer. Similarly, there’s a universe where Jon Stewart or Owen Wilson could have portrayed Ted. Ah, the days when Jon Stewart was acting on screen and not just hosting The Daily Show on Comedy Central. What a world that would have been! I mean, I can’t even picture either of the other casting options just because of how both Diaz and Stiller nail their performances, hair gel, zipper, and all.
Much like the Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen comedies of the early 2000s, it is impossible to watch this film through a contemporary lens. The only way to watch is through the raunchy 1998 lens that it was made–the same lens that earned the film the #27 spot on AFI’s 100 Years, 100 Laughs list in 2000. The film just missed out on making some of the other AFI lists. But anyway, it earned its spot because of the comedic gags. Not just the bathroom incident but the whole incident with the dog. The dog doesn’t die–thank G-d–but does attack Ted and then falls out the window. Thankfully, the dog survives in a full body cast. But again, this is a sequence that could have worked differently and missed the landing.
There’s Something About Mary earns its spot as one of the funniest comedy movies ever made.
DIRECTORS: Peter Farrelly & Bobby Farrelly
SCREENWRITERS: Ed Decter & John J. Strauss and Peter Farrelly & Bobby Farrelly
CAST: Cameron Diaz, Matt Dillon, Ben Stiller, Lee Evans, Chris Elliott, Lin Shaye, Jeffrey Tambor, Markie Post, W. Earl Brown