Elaine May’s The Heartbreak Kid is not only a classic romantic comedy; it’s also one of the few Neil Simon scripts that isn’t undone by his gag writing instincts. There are real characters in The Heartbreak Kid, and they’re really unlikeable in a lot of ways, none more so than Charles Grodin’s Lenny, who, while honeymooning in Miami with his awkward young bride Lila (Jeannie Berlin), falls in love with the beautiful Kelly (Cybil Shepherd). The tenaciousness with which Lenny pursues Kelly is both amusing and unnerving; clearly, May’s more fascinated by her protagonist than charmed by him (which may be why she cast her own daughter as the jilted newlywed). If you’ve never seen it, I can’t recommend it enough.
Though it’s unwise to judge a film from its trailer, I’m sensing that the tone of The Farrelly Brothers’ take on The Heartbreak Kid is going to be a bit broader. The Lila character has obviously been written as a hideous clutz (and is it me or does Malin Akerman bear a striking resemblance to Teri Polo?), while Lenny has been written as… Ben Stiller.
That’s going to be the hurdle for me. A decade ago, anything with Ben Stiller was a good idea (even a loud misfire like Mystery Men); now, he’s a parody of himself. The one thing that will make The Heartbreak Kid watchable is Michelle Monaghan, who has my sympathies for life after Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang.
The Heartbreak Kid opens October 5th, 2007.