There's Something About Mary (1998) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Here's a movie to test any given film critic to see if they are in the right profession. Here we have the film chosen as the best comedy of the 90's in several forums, including our own poll. You could include it in a list of the ten funniest films ever made, and not raise an eyebrow. It was a massive commercial success, and was one of the best-reviewed comedies of the decade. Given the fact that it can also bring a tear to your eye, is also an artistic triumph on many levels, from the startlingly good photography to the Greek chorus musicians, and is almost unceasingly funny, it is not unreasonable to argue that it's the greatest comedy ever made. And can you name any other movie that gets movie audiences laughing, dancing, and singing along during the closing credits?

So if you find a critic who gave this a poor review, ask yourself - what the hell are they doing in the movie reviewing business in the first place, when they gave a poor review to a film which might be the best comedy film ever made? Are they there to impose their taste on you, and to tell you that you should be watching Andrei Rublev instead? Are they there to promote the fact that no comedies can ever be worthwhile? You have to wonder.


None: there is a prosthesis used to make one woman seem to have the world's ugliest breasts.

Cameron Diaz is braless, in t-shirts, through most of the film.

Similarly, genuinely funny comedies almost never get nominated for Oscars. The ones that normally make it to the red carpet are character-based films like Shakespeare in Love or Tootsie. (Tootsie's funniest moments weren't even in the script, but were just Bill Murray improvising, being himself.) Name a truly funny movie, and it wasn't nominated for anything. Airplane - nothin'. Duck Soup - zip. Blazing Saddles - nada. Office Space - zilch. South Park - el zippo. Groundhog Day - zero. Something About Mary - goose egg. American Pie - squat. Monty Python and the Holy Grail - jack shit. About the only funny guy who gets Oscar nominations is Woody Allen, and even he didn't get them until he started to be serious and make the humor a backdrop for his thoughts about relationships.

(Actually, South Park was nominated for "Best Song", and Mel Brooks did win a best screenplay Oscar in 1969 for his classic The Producers.)

In fact, many reviewers do despise comedies because funny films disempower the critic. With a drama, there are many subjective issues which can be evaluated in the measurement of a film. With a comedy, you really don't even need a critic. Rather than subjective standards, you could measure comedies objectively. You could just set up one of those laugh-meters in the theater and measure the frequency and volume of laughter. Report the frequency and amplitude in the paper - bingo. Instant evaluation. Add some demographic detail about who is laughing the most and there's not really any need for a critic, except to tell prospective audiences what kind of comedy it is.

Many large laughs = great comedy. But, you see, the simple and obvious comedy equation is lost on critics and the academy. (To their credit, the British do award great comedies once in a while. Groundhog Day was awarded the BAFTA for best screenplay, over The Piano.) It seems pretty obvious that the best comedy film is the one which makes the most people laugh the loudest, but even this simple concept is too complicated for the academy. As strange as it seems, actual humor is almost an automatic disqualification for a comedy! The only way for a comedy film to get nominated for an Oscar is to avoid making audiences laugh.

There's Something About Mary didn't follow that path.

In an era when comedies are considered great if they produce one good gag for every ten attempts, this film manages to pull off almost every gag successfully. There's Something About Mary had audiences falling out of their chairs non-stop. Its funniest scenes are side-splitting, and Matt Dillon is truly hilarious in one of the great comedy performances of all time. Dillon joins Leslie Nielsen in the ranks of good-looking guys who were never very good in serious movies, but who just have a special knack for being funny effortnessly.

The premise:

When Ben Stiller was in high school, he was a complete geek, but he somehow managed to get a prom date with Mary, the prettiest girl in school (Cameron Diaz, looking magnificent with long hair). That date was a complete disaster which hit its nadir before it even began, when Stiller used the bathroom at Mary's house, and caught his genitals in his zipper.

Mary had moved away by the time Ben recovered, but he never forgot her. More that a decade later, he hired a private detective to find her. Unfortunately, the investigator was a complete sleazeball (Matt Dillon) who took one look at the adult Mary (still Cameron Diaz, now looking magnificent with short hair), and decided to court her himself, using the inside knowledge he garnered during his investigation. As it develops, at least two other guys were working similar scams on Mary, and even former NFL MVP Brett Favre was in the competition (no need to polish up an extra Oscar for Favre), but Stiller eventually decided to get back in the game anyway because, well, because there's just something about Mary.

DVD info from Amazon

  • Widescreen anamorphic 1.85:1. It looks great. Colors are bright and attractive. Very Miami.

  • You could spend your life on the extra features:

  • full-length commentary by the Farrellys

  • additional full-length commentary by the writers

  • extra commentary in certain scenes

  • 15 minutes of extra footage are fully restored and scored (or, if you prefer, the original theatrical version is also available)

  • 43 minute behind-the-scenes featurette

  • about a dozen additional featurettes and programs about the film

Cameron Diaz brought a wonderfully centered, sweet, good-natured, good-ol'-gal life to Mary that raised the film from merely funny all the way to "priceless". Her character, and her interpretation of it, anchored the film with genuine good feeling, joy, and generosity that balanced off nicely with the gross stuff and the conniving of her suitors.

The new DVD is so loaded that even I, loving the film as I do, could only absorb a small portion of it. Bravo to the Farrellys, Matt, Cam, Ben, those singers, and every other element that came together to make this film such a freakin' treasure.

The Critics Vote

  • General USA consensus: two and a half stars. Ebert 3/4, Berardinelli 3/4.

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 7.2/10, Yahoo voters 4.0/5.
  • Box Office Mojo. A mammoth success: it grossed $176 million in the USA, with a $23 million production budget.
  • The film won our reader poll as the best comedy of the 90's. (South Park might have given it a run, but was in the "animated film" category, where it won.) It was nominated for a Golden Globe as best Motion Picture - Comedy/Musical. It also won both the MTV movie award and the People's Choice awards as Best Picture.
Special Scoopy awards for excellence in criticism go to:

Order of merit in accuracy: David Edelstein of Slate Magazine. Even when you're able to guess the next calamity, it's still a shock in its ejaculatory intensity. The Farrellys never throw in the towel. Pretentious Sundance independents could learn a lot from such pistols.

The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this film is an A. It was a monster hit with audiences, received excellent reviews, and we love it. 'Nuff said.

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