I Know What That Something Is
I've lost track of the number of times I have watched the Farrelly brothers' "There's Something About Mary" but every time, even now 10 years plus since it was released, it still makes me laugh. Ironically "There's Something About Mary" isn't that different to other Farrelly brothers' comedies as it trades heavily on being crude and vulgar but what makes it stand out is that it has wonderful comic timing. It also has a semi reasonable romantic comedy storyline as the basis of all this humour which throws up a few surprises along the way. And as such, because all the gags, even those which are set pieces, tie in to the storyline "There's Something About Mary" works better than other movies.
The year is 1985 and Ted's (Ben Stiller - The Cable Guy) luck seems to be in when after helping out Mary's (Cameron Diaz - My Best Friend's Wedding) brother Warren (W. Earl Brown) she asks him to go to Prom with her, but unfortunately an accident with a zipper made it a night to remember for all the wrong reasons. 13 years later and Ted still can't get Mary out of his head and after the prompting of his friend Dom (Chris Elliott) hires Healy (Matt Dillon - Wild Things) a private detective to track her down. The only trouble is that whilst Healy finds Mary in Miami he falls for her himself and tries to put Ted off of trying to see her and Healy and Ted are not the only ones who can't get Mary out of their heads as other men also have the same problem and all end up rivalling each other.
Now in fairness "There's Something About Mary" is a movie all about the comedy and the Farrelly's have filled it with some memorably crazy gags but because it has a reasonable storyline it does come together nicely. Now I say reasonable because whilst there is nothing really that special the storyline surrounding Ted trying to track down Mary 13 years after a disastrous Prom Night horror provides enough plot to keep you entertained. From us being taken back to that horror of a prom night through to the present day as Healy tries to dupe his way into Mary's life at the same time as Ted and various others is fun. The whole trying to out do each other is amusing and it throws up a couple of crazy surprises as the story builds to it's less than surprising end as Mary has to decide between various men who fancy her.
But it is really the comedy which makes "There's Something About Mary" memorable and whilst you could just say that this is a movie full of crude comedy it is also a movie which makes it work because of great timing. Take the Prom Night horror scene where we have Ted suffering a painful Frank and Beans incident with his trousers zipper, for any man it makes you physically cringe not just in the pain of the accident but also the embarrassment of everyone coming in and turning away in horror when they see what is caught in Ted's zipper. And the Farrelly's don't hold back as we then get to see it, but they tease us making us comically dread how bad it is before finally delivering that split second shock.
The Frank and Beans gag is probably the second most memorable scene as we then get the infamous hair gel scene as Mary mistakes some love juice for hair gel. It's such a clever scene because it has you cringing in disbelief but then delivers a great comedy pay off when we see how stiff her hair becomes. And I could go on because from the big gags to the smaller ones such as Mary's step dad winding Ted up when he goes to pick up Mary for Prom every single joke makes you laugh and they continue to make you laugh every time you watch "There's Something About Mary".
The irony of this is that the performances through out "There's Something About Mary" be it Ben Stiller as Ted, Cameron Diaz as Mary, Matt Dillon as Healy or Lee Evans as Tucker are all enjoyable but they are outshone by the gags they deliver. Of course each of them add to the movies memorability be it Stiller delivering the pain of the Frank and Beans scene or Diaz pulling of the dead pan humour of running love juice through her hair but it is the strength of the writing and the Farrelly's knowing exactly when to deliver the punch which makes it so good. And it's not just the humans which are memorable as the dog which features heavily be it the real one or the toy dog just adds not only to the humour but also more memorable scenes.
What this all boils down to is that "There's Something About Mary" is still the Farrelly's best movie to date because not only do we get a reasonable romantic comedy to accompany the crude humour but it has perfect comedy timing. So strong is "There's Something About Mary" that even now after more than a decade and more viewings than I care to remember the jokes are as funny as ever.