Oil and Water

'Stuck on You' fuses dumb comedy and sensitive drama as unnaturally as the two co-stars.

Bobby and Peter Farrelly, while best known for replacing plot with snot and introducing Americans to poop humor, are also two of the most sentimental and politically correct filmmakers in the world.

In Dumb and Dumber, they championed the extremely stupid. With Kingpin, they gave equal time to the handicapped and religious. In There's Something About Mary, they showed the human side of stalkers and Cameron Diaz. And in Shallow Hal, the extremely overweight were sexed up in a loving and adult manner.

I'm sympathetic to the Farrellys' efforts to broaden the cultural horizons of their viewers by presenting mixed-race marriages, the mentally retarded and those missing appendages as unexceptional parts of the human landscape. Still, I've had trouble with their visual reliance on sticky things that are excreted from the human body and the effect that those sticky things have when rubbed on other parts of said body.

However, in Stuck on You, the Farrellys' almost completely give up on excretory humor (there is a brief mention of "smegma from the dead hooker's perineum," but the smegma itself is only discussed, and the perineum never seen) and they instead head heavily into sentiment territory.

Stuck on You is the story of Bo (Matt Damon) and Walt (Greg Kinnear), conjoined twins who run a burger joint in Martha's Vineyard. While Bo is shy and nervous, Walt is a ladies' man and community theater star. Somehow, though, they manage to share a liver and a life together.

That is, until flashy Walt decides that he wants to move to Hollywood to become a real actor. Bo, who's more of a down-home guy, reluctantly decides to go along, and much hilarity ensues. Well, not too much. This is probably the Farrellys' least funny comedy, perhaps because it's so sensitive to its subject matter.

One of the best things the Farrellys do in this film is fill the bit parts and extra roles with actual handicapped people--without drawing a lot of attention to this. When there's a crowd shot, at least a few people in the crowd will be dwarves or deaf people or double-amputees. I mean, this is good in the way of adding to our cultural acceptance of those who are different. It's not so good when played for laughs, and, knowing this, the Farrellys don't play it for laughs. Thus, one of the things lacking from much of this film is humor.

It starts out funny enough, but I guess there are only so many jokes about conjoined twins that anyone can write. When they've run out of that material, they look for another deformity to make fun of and find it in the form of Cher's bizarrely cosmetically altered face.

This thing is a marvel of modern science. Cher would be capable of going back and doing a remake of Mask, only she'd have to play the kid. And she wouldn't need any makeup.

Cher meets Bo and Walt and asks Walt to co-star with her on a new TV series. She only does this because she wants the show to be cancelled, and she figures that nobody will go for a show about a private investigator who's connected by a flesh-bridge to Matt Damon. This is obviously the kind of huge miscalculation that could only be made by someone who thought Sonny Bono was worth having sex with; it turns out that America loves Walt, and the show is a hit.

Of course, this leads to friction in Bo and Walt's relationship, and much standard movie stuff happens wherein the twins fight and bicker and learn how much they love each other.

Perhaps this film is a metaphor for the Farrellys' own relationship: They have almost identical resumes and seem to have done virtually everything together. They no doubt bear a deep and abiding and occasionally poop-oriented love for each other. Still, when they want to tell a human story, they're fully capable of doing so. Outside Providence, their only naturalistic, non-grossout movie, was an artistic, if not commercial, success.

But in Stuck on You, they rely on the kind of campy acting and broad comedy that made them big money. The combo doesn't quite work. It may be time for them to move wholeheartedly into drama.

They had the cast to do it here: Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear are both spot on as the twins. Seymour Cassel, who plays their agent, Morty, is one of the best film actors of all time. Eva Mendes, as Walt's girlfriend, is strangely naturalistic and effective. And Cher, or the animatronic robot that replaced her, is an Oscar-winning actress.

Working together, they could have made an interesting and affecting drama. Stuck on You actually manages to be moving in spite of its silliness, and one scene in which Bo and Walt come to the defense of their mentally retarded waiter is the kind of thing that puts a lump in your throat and has you cheering for the conjoined good guys.

But in the end, the conflict between comedy and caring seems unresolved. A great soundtrack, fine performances and the helmsmanship of two of America's leading filmmakers can't save Stuck on You from its split personality. It's not, ultimately, a bad film, but it is sort of two films, one a dumb comedy, the other a sensitive drama, cramping each other's style by being unnaturally stuck together.