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Stuck On You

Year: 2003
Director: Peter Farrelly/Bobby Farrelly
Writer: Peter Farrelly/Bobby Farrelly
Cast: Greg Kinnear, Matt Damon, Eva Mendes, Cher, Meryl Streep, Seymour Cassell, Frankie Muniz
Like horror, the comedy genre was losing its way in the early 1990s. Hollywood was forgetting that teenagers existed and trying to be clever, producing much more 'adult' comedy like When Harry Met Sally while teen comedy tended to flounder on straight-to-video shelves.

The champions of the less sophisticated comedies like the Zucker brothers were fading into the backgorund and churning out increasingly lame movies, and it looked like movie audiences didn't want to laugh anymore - not without self-interested introspection into the state of relationships and society, anyway.

But a two-brother writing and directing team arose to make a brief splash with films that were unabashedly funny, targeted at the lowest common denominator of our collective sense of humour, and solid but guilty fun.

Their first efforts - Kingpin and Dumb and Dumber - didn't do enormous business, but they heralded the arrival of a new force in comedy. The Farrelly brothers brought side-splitting (at times disgusting) laughs to the big screen and earned the title 'gross out', one they carefully encouraged with images like the infamous hairgel scene from There's Something About Mary.

Then something changed again. In Me, Myself and Irene and even more strongly in Shallow Hal, it seemed the Farrellys were trying to tell us something; that things like obesity and disability exist, they can be traits belonging to lead characters in movies, and what's more, they don't have to be the subject of insensitive jokes.

The message underneath the laughs in Stuck On You - their latest effort out this week - is clear; conjoined twins (the old term was Siamese Twins) can have full lives, they aren't a joke in themselves, they have as much right to happiness as any of us, and it's all right to laugh at the funny things they do (no differently than we'd laugh at the funny things anyone else does).

And true to Farrelly form, the laughs are plentiful. And surprisngly from the team known for revitalising the gross-out comedy, their jokes become cleverer with each film they do.

Walt and Bob (Kinnear and Damon) have been joined at the abdomen all their lives. They have a good life running a hamburger restaurant in their native New England home, their friends and dreams. Bob's fallen in love with a girl he writes to over the Internet but doesn't have the bravado to take it further, and Walt pursues his dreams of being an actor in his yearly local drama production.

Suddenly, the acting bug bites seriously. Walt's starting to feel old (Bob has most of their liver, after all), and he'll never forgive himself if he doesn't have a crack at Hollywood.

They move into a seedy motel in LA, land a seedy agent who wants to cast Walt in pornos, meet ditzy wannabe actress April (Mendes), and settle down to wait for Walt's big break.

After they run into Cher (playing herself) in the middle of a backlot dummy spit about a TV show she wants to get out of, she has the bright idea of casting Walt as her costar, never expecting the show to work because of his attached brother and forcing the network to can it.

From there, the story branches into several directions - following Bob's blossoming romance with his internet beau, the show becoming a hit and the brothers becoming a media phenomenon. Each subplot is neatly woven together, only because the relationship between two brothers leading their own lives while joined together is so skillfully made good fun.

And the way Walt and Bob handle their adventures is the centrepiece of the film. With no notion that being joined togethr limits them in any way, it's genuinely sweet as well as being the butt of many jokes that never stoop to cheap cruelty.

If you respond to brash comedy and like what the Farrelly brothers have done with their last few movies - teaching us all a bit more about people who live in the real world but rarely on the movie screen - then Stuck on You will stay stuck on you for quite awhile.

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