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Stuck on You

(2003) ** Pg-13
120 min. 20th Century Fox. Directors: Peter Farrelly, Bobby Farrelly. Cast: Matt Damon, Greg Kinnear, Eva Mendes, Wen Yann Shih, Pat Crawford Brown.

What do Jim Carrey and Woody Allen have in common with Ben Stiller and Will Smith. Both were rumored pairings to star as the conjoined twins in the Farrelly Brothers' ultimate buddy picture Stuck on You. With Oscar nominees Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear in tow as Bob and Walt Tenor, the real-life brothers famous for There's Something About Mary and a whole cottage industry of gross-out comedies tiptoe toward a kinder, gentler style here. Unfortunately, the Farrellys' zany style, with its dumb gags and cruel slapstick, sits uneasily with sweet character comedy; here, they fail to gel.

Bob (Damon) and Walt (Kinnear) are literally joined at the hip. In their Martha's Vineyard stomping grounds, the Tenors work their short-order kitchen like Tom Cruise works a bar in Cocktail. Walt's preparing for his opening night as Truman Capote in Tru; it's an inspired blackout gag to drag unwilling participant Bob, clad in black turtleneck and slacks, into the spotlight of a famous one-man show. The Farrellys also include a barfight to "Do the Hustle" and some priceless fastballs from Seymour Cassel as a sleazy agent well past in his prime ("Cronkite's gonna have a field day with this!"). Typically, the Farrellys fire up a punny jukebox of pop music ("Wild horses couldn't tear me away...").

But Stuck on You plays like the best of Saturday Night Live's short-story sketches: a boffo five minutes, but not enough to sustain a fleshed-out film. Walt convinces Bob to tag along to Hollywood, where Walt will make a bid for the acting career he's always wanted. Bob is reluctant but supportive: even if he didn't have to be, you sense he'd always be there for Walt. Cher (as herself) hires Walt to co-star in a television pilot she wants to dump, and the show becomes an unexpected hit. By this point, the story is on an irredeemably misbegotten course; Cher's not funny here, and the Hollywood jokes are stale. The involvement of an even-bigger Hollywood star in an elaborate cameo stops the film dead, twice.

The Farrellys missed a pretty amazing opportunity here, if they truly wanted to do something different. If they had kept the sweetness and jettisoned the dumbest of the jokes, they might have had an offbeat comedy-drama in the farfetched but soft-spoken style of a Hal Ashby or a Wes Anderson. Imagine that. Instead, we get another disposable, silly, so-so place-filler on the week's box office chart.

(End credit alert: patient viewers will be "treated" to a well-intentioned but discomfiting speech by the mentally challenged actor who plays a waiter in the brothers' diner.)

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