Stuck on You

WFTB Score: 13/20

The plot: Conjoined Twins Walt and Bob Tenor have made an advantage of their disability, turning out burgers in double-quick time. But while this life suits Bob perfectly Walt dreams of being an actor, an unlikely ambition but one he is desperate to pursue. Bob agrees to move to Hollywood, influenced by the thought of meeting a long-distance love; the only trouble is, she doesn’t know about Walt, who miraculously is about to hit the big time.

The Farrelly brothers have never been afraid of seeing comedy where others fear to tread, making fun of stupidity (Dumb and Dumber), schizophrenia (Me, Myself & Irene) and even having a hand in the production of incest comedy (!) Say It Isn’t So. Even so, you might think that making a movie about conjoined twins deserves a certain amount of sensitivity; well, you might think that, but Bobby and Peter don’t.

The twins in question here are Walt and Bob Tenor (Greg Kinnear and Matt Damon respectively), joined at the liver, nestled in the cosy heart of Martha’s Vineyard as they serve (mostly) loyal customers in their Quikee Burger restaurant. While Bob, shy, is as happy as Larry with his lot in life, Walt has acting in his blood and starring in local theatre (which brings Bob close to a panic attack) is no longer enough to fulfil him. Walt persuades Bob to give Hollywood a try – after all, it will get him closer to May Fong (Wen Yann Shih), an internet love – but although they make friends like lovely but dim actress April (Eva Mendes) and get an agent in the shape of shifty old goat Morty O’Reilly (Seymour Cassel), work is hard to come by until a chance meeting with Cher (hopefully sending herself up as a nasty piece of work) gets Walt a part on a rubbish TV show, Honey and the Beaze, with Bob disguised by Chroma key and taken on as a writer.

Cher thinks employing the twins will get her out of her restrictive contract but to her horror, Walt is a roaring success. His new, high profile is completely at odds with Bob’s desire for a quiet life back at the Vineyard, and his love life isn’t made any easier by the fact that May, who likes Bob despite his social awkwardness, doesn’t know everything she should about him and Walt. There is a solution to the twins’ divergent destinies, but separation comes at a risk to Walt’s life, and the lesson that (to quote the song) we all need somebody to lean on.

Of course the premise of Stuck on You is crass and leaves the directors open to accusations of poking fun at a disability, but the Farrellys neatly sidestep the issue by presenting the brothers as completely at home with their condition. If they are capable of anything and don’t feel sorry for themselves, why should we feel awkward watching them? Neither Walt nor Bob are victims, and their co-dependence has given them a bond stronger than the physical one that keeps them together.

The reason this works is because Damon and Kinnear make it work, convincingly playing brothers who care for each other immensely despite their different outlooks on life (Walt looks and acts very much the older brother, although they are obviously meant to be the same age). There is some technical trickery involved, but the physical co-ordination of the actors is marvellous as they make their way through life, Walt with an assured bluffness as he cosies up with Meryl Streep, aka ‘The Streeper’, Bob with trepidation as he dates May, disguising Walt as a bear to keep their secret secret. Both Cher and Streep are funny as themselves and Cassel leads a strong line-up of broad caricatures, but it is really Greg and Matt’s show, Damon in particular showing an understated talent for comedy.

The Farrelly brothers fill Stuck on You with enough jokes and uplifting set-pieces that less successful elements are easily overlooked. For example, April and May are both rather underwritten, but Meryl Streep’s appearance in the closing musical number (did Mamma Mia’s Phyllida Lloyd watch this movie?!) more than makes up for them. Furthermore, whilst you might argue that the film suggests the brothers can only live truly full lives when separated, they are clearly happiest in close proximity; and the separation procedure does give the film its best sight gag as the brothers walk away from the hospital. And yes, footage of the Tenors as young boys and the casting of Ray “Rocket” Valliere (together with a speech flattering the production of the film during the credits) is all designed to take the edge off criticism and portray the film in a sympathetic light; but somehow it all works, and the film manages to be simultaneously naughty, funny and sweet.

Possibly too sweet for filmgoers used to the cruelty of films like Kingpin or There’s Something About Mary, but for me the Farrelly brothers have created a lovely little film, (presumably) calling upon their own experiences as brothers to give Stuck on You an attribute missing from some of their edgier and more callous work: heart.

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