A Look Back: There’s Something About Mary

Thanksgiving was yesterday, which meant many Americans voiced gratitude for things as varied as good health, a semi-functional family and hopefully, a primo parking spot if they planned to do some shopping Friday. Sometimes, though, we don’t have to wait for an official holiday to give thanks – we find ourselves doing so automatically when we’re watching a Hollywood movie. For example, in “There’s Something About Mary,” directed by Bobby and Peter Farrelly, several months before Thanksgiving when it was released in July, both audience members of the male and female persuasion felt gratitude early on into the film – as they watched Ben Stiller engage in a battle with an errant zipper and a particular body part, as he prepares to get ready for the prom in the bathroom of his date’s house – either that you weren’t Ben or would never be.

If you thought Carrie White had a bad prom, surely, Ben Stiller’s character in “There’s Something About Mary” runs a close second; at least poor Carrie actually made it to the prom and got to enjoy herself a bit before the climax. Ben, on the other hand, although his invitation issued by the eponymous Mary (Cameron Diaz) after he defends her mentally challenged younger brother (W. Earl Brown) in the schoolyard thrills him, doesn’t even make it to the actual event because of said zipper incident. Instead he winds up in the ER (en route, a medic shouts, “We’ve got a bleeder!”) and loses touch with Cameron. However, in his twenties, he decides to hire a private investigator (Matt Dillon) to track down Cameron, on the advice on his friend (Chris Elliott), who turns out to have his own checkered history with her. Despite being fed a fish story about Cameron being exceedingly overweight and unattractive, Ben proceeds down to Miami where he (of course) finds the opposite. Not only is Cameron as gorgeous as she was in high school, she’s also an orthopedic surgeon and still being pursued by inappropriate men.

How inappropriate? Well, there’s a British-accented guy on crutches (Lee Evans) who lusts after Cameron and who turns out to have a pretty ordinary second shift. There’s also Matt himself who begins dating Cameron, in spite of, or perhaps because of, being incredibly politically incorrect. Meanwhile, Ben has a series of misadventures involving Cameron, an alternative to hair gel, a rest stop break gone wrong, and more high jinks involving W. Earl Brown,  who is beginning to trust Ben and whose trust will pay off in the end for a happy ending. There is a twist involving Brett Favre (as himself), and a brave act of sacrifice, but everything does work out in a fairy tale way. As Roger Ebert pointed out in his review, you find yourself laughing despite, or perhaps because of, the political incorrectness (a staple of Farrelly brothers’ films), which in the nineties when the movie came out, was a good thing.

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