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The Heartbreak Kid review

Comedy's a fickle old thing. One minute you're the enfants terrible behind There's Something About Mary, then the next - after a couple of flaky flops - you're the forgotten men of gross-out guffaws, watching bitterly as the new generation get all the box-office boodle. The Farrelly Brothers' solution? Seek inspiration from an even older comic master and remake a Neil Simon flick from the 70s. Yeah, right - that was bound to work...

Simon's original had Charles Grodin's newlywed realising his bride was a disaster area just after the "I dos" and falling for Cybil Shepherd's leggy blonde while on honeymoon. The Farrellys paste Ben Stiller into the Grodin role, throw rising fem lead Michelle Monaghan in as the sparky beauty he loses his heart to while honeymooning. Then they ramp up the pace with a gross-out adrenaline surge.

Or that's the theory. Trouble is, it doesn't work. The Farrellys struggle to dovetail Simon's old-school wordplay and farce with their own muckier sensibilities and wincing slapstick. With Stiller lazily pumping out the same off-the-peg comic loser we've seen a dozen times before, the film stutters, stalls, recovers for a single big gag - and there are probably a solid half-dozen guilty gut guffaws spread over the running time - before mechanically stuttering and stalling through the same cycle again.

It's a frustrating watch made worse by the fact that the Farrellys seem to have forgotten how to judge rom-com tone. Characters who you should like are harsh and grating while others who are supposed to be monsters come across as kind of sweet. Malin Ackerman's new bride Lila may be bit of a nightmare - what with the history of drugs, huge debts and love of extreme sex - but you can't help feeling that it's her who doesn't deserve to be saddled with Stiller's character and not the other way around.

Too little soul to be sweet, too little energy to be a gagfest, the Farrelly Brothers squeeze out just enough laughs to make this watchable, but nowhere near enough to make it great. It breaks your heart, it really does...

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