Rated R - Running time: 1:58 - Released 7/15/98

A truly offbeat (and sometimes off-color) comedy, There's Something About Mary is one of the funniest romances I have seen recently, and includes some real acting by Cameron Diaz in the title role. Directed by the Farrely Brothers, Bobby and Peter, who also produced Dumb & Dumber (1994) and Kingpin (1996), the film has a definite Mel Brooks influence, mixing sharp, witty satire with low comedy. Among the running gags is a pair of musicians who are regularly seen in the background warbling out hysterically badly written songs narrating the story, in various musical styles.

The plot begins in 1985, as Mary Jensen (Diaz) and Ted Stroehmann (Ben Stiller) are about to graduate from high school in Rhode Island. Though Ted is a goofy-looking nerd with braces and Mary is the most fabulous babe in school, she likes him because he takes up for her mentally challenged brother Warren (W. Earl Brown), in a fight with a bully. Ted gets a fat lip, but Mary asks him out to the prom. But the plans miscarry after a painful, zipper-related accident.

Cut to thirteen years later (1998): Ted has never forgotten Mary, and feels he must try to seek her out. His friend (Chris Elliott) introduces him to a private eye named Pat Healy (Matt Dillon), and though Ted is a little queasy about the plan, Pat travels to Miami to find her. When he does, he finds her so beautiful and charming (and still unattached) that he falls for her himself. She is a wealthy, successful doctor who still takes care of her brother Warren, among other handicapped people, for whom she has a soft spot. The only thing missing in her life is romance. Soon Ted and Pat are in a race to win her over, along with a local would-be suitor (Lee Evans).

Though the plot of this film is trivial, what makes it succeed is the sheer outlandishness of the comedy. Several quirky characters appear and disappear, and Ted and Mary turn out to be the only "normal" people on the screen. There are times when the humor really scrapes the bottom of the barrel (some people will be offended), including not only toilet humor and sexual innuendo, but racial jokes, humor about the mentally disadvantaged, fake nudity, and an animal-abuse sequence that had the audience howling. But as with Mel Brooks, the Farrely Bros. can be excused because it's just so darned funny. And don't leave before the credits are finished, because a lot of leftover humor is shown as they roll, with the cast practicing all sorts of pranks and silliness.

There's Something About Mary is funny the way Blazing Saddles was funny. You have to be in the mood for gross jokes and offensive subject matter. But if you are, it's not to be missed. ****

Copyright 1998 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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