erik lundegaard

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There’s Something About Mary (1998)

I can't remember the last time I laughed so hard at specific scenes in a movie. Oddly, none are the scenes everyone talks about. The hair-gel scene. The zipper scene. The dog-on-speed scene. I liked the more humanistic element of There's Something About Mary.

Written by:
Ed Decter
John J. Strauss
Peter Farrelly
Bobby Farrelly

Directed by:
Peter Farrelly
Bobby Farrelly

Starring:
Cameron Diaz
Ben Stiller
Matt Dillon
Lee Evans
Chris Elliot
Jeffrey Tambor
Keith David
Markie Post
Brett Favre

Quote:
"Exceptional, my ass!"

It's 1985 and Ted Stroehmann (Ben Stiller), a well-intentioned geek, is having trouble finding a date for the senior prom. But after he sticks up for Warren, the retarded brother of the best-looking girl in school, Mary Mathrews (Cameron Diaz), she asks him. Unfortunately their date never gets out the front door. One disaster after another. Warren goes slightly beserk, the strap on Mary's dress breaks, and going to the bathroom Ted tries to zip up too quickly and gets caught. "Franks or beans?" Mary's stepfather asks. Paramedics are called. End of story.

Thirteen years go by and Ted is still hung up on Mary so he hires private investigator Pat Healey (Matt Dillon) to track her down. In following her, Healey falls for her, even moves down to Florida to be near her, meanwhile telling Ted she's a blimp, with four kids from three different men, all the stuff that would turn a guy off.

Matt Dillon shines here. His dialogue is both crude and side-splitting. Even having spied on Mary, so knowing beforehand what kind of man she wants, he can't get it right. "I guess what really makes my life complete," he tells her nobly, "is working with retards." He forearm-shivs an entire platoon of them in a game of beach football and then waggles the football in their face. "Exceptional my ass!" he cries. Is there any disadvantaged group the Farelly brothers don't insult?

Hilarious characters are introduced. My favorite supporting character is Tucker (Lee Evans), Mary's architect friend, who is the first onto Pat Healey's scam but who has a few skeletons of his own.

Ultimately Ted's my man. One scene in particular will make me love Ben Stiller forever. Near the end of the film false identities are revealed and Ted barges in, presents Mary with her long-lost boyfriend, then leaves. It's a back-up fantasy: a man courageously giving up his love for his love. When we next see Ted, he's walking along the pier blubbering like a baby.

God, I laughed. Ben Stiller can make a whole decade of crap films and I will continue to defend him because of this one scene.

—February 9, 1999

© 1999 Erik Lundegaard