%photo13% It might seem strange, considering the last decade has brought them nothing but commercial and critical disappointments, but in 1998, fans and intellectuals were comparing the Farrelly brothers to Groucho Marx, Mel Brooks and Mort Sahl. That year brought "There's Something About Mary," their third consecutive (and their biggest) hit, and the movie world was swooning: Roger Ebert even compared the film to "Singin' In The Rain."
The film launched the careers of Cameron Diaz and Ben Stiller, locking them each in the personas they still inhabit 13 years later: She's the gorgeous, daffy lady, and he's the put-upon, good-hearted, nervous schlub. And it launched a full decade of "gross-out" comedies, for better and (almost entirely) worse. It even featured Brett Favre in a legitimately funny cameo, back when he was a new face and not the constantly unretiring weirdo taking pictures of his penis. (The role was written for Steve Young, but he turned it down, citing the film's "coarse nature.")
The film is still funny, though most of the gags have lost their verve, considering how much coarser movies have become in the last 13 years. Then, Diaz putting sperm in her hair was outrageous; today, a man defecates on Joaquin Phoenix. And it's also of note that the brothers themselves seemed to run out of inspiration: They followed this film with "Me, Myself & Irene," "Shallow Hal," "Stuck On You," "Fever Pitch" and, in an attempt to get back on the Stiller train, "The Heartbreak Kid." Friday, their "Hall Pass" opens, and its supposed "crazy" premise -- that two wives allow their husbands a week off from marriage -- seems tired and sitcom by nature. Comedy is hard, and grossout comedy is harder: Eventually you're just repeating yourself, and besides: Someone is always, always willing to take the joke farther than you.
Besides: We prefer "Kingpin" anyway.