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Farrelly Bros. Career Assessment: Spooge Only Shoots So Far

By Agent Bedhead | Career Assessments | February 25, 2011 |


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Subject: Peter Farrelly and Bobby Farrelly, two fifty-something American directors, writers, and producers

Date of Assessment: February 25, 2011

Positive Buzzwords: Outrageous, no-holds barred

Negative Buzzwords: Gross-out humor, resistant to growth

The Case: It's one thing when directors corner a market for a specific type of film, but it's another matter altogether when an audience begins to outgrow a pair of directors who, quite simply, refuse to mature along with their viewers. That's the only conclusion that I can glean from the steady box-office decline of the Farrelly Bros, who have continued to recycle their immature potty humor as a means to providing gross-out comedies for an audience who no longer laughs. While these two directors have been stuck up their own asses (figuratively, I hope), R-rated comedy has also witnessed the rise of Judd Apatow, who co-mingles some of the same outrageous comedic aspects with a bit more sweetness and humanity as well as an ever-so-grudging and much appreciated tinge of maturity.

(Just a small note here: For this assessment, all movies will be discussed in terms of worldwide box-office grosses, since the Farrellys appear to have a strange international appeal.)

The continued existence of the Farrelly Bros. is a perplexing matter, for I once (like many of you) enjoyed some of the Farrelly Bros. early hits -- Dumb and Dumber ($247 million); There's Something About Mary ($369 million) -- but felt pretty lukewarm about the duo's follow-ups -- Me, Myself and Irene ($149 million); Shallow Hal ($141 million) -- which weren't quite as financially successful either. Their subsequent careers have also endured a few low-grossing duds like Osmosis Jones ($14 million) and Kingpin ($25 million) that mercilessly squandered the talents of Bill Murray and Woody Harrelson, respectively speaking. Lately, the Farrelly Bros. have reached only modest heights with Stuck On You ($65 million) and Fever Pitch ($50 million). It seemed like the world was nearly finished with the Farrellys, but then something strange happened; that is, the success of The Heartbreak Kid, which even strained the tolerance levels of our own Dustin Rowles, who likened the experience of watching the movie to how Tony Montana felt at the end of Scarface and prompted the following declaration:

The Farrelly brothers are done. Yeah -- The Heartbreak Kid may swindle $20 million out of an unsuspecting public this weekend, but even those with a comedic threshold so low it's buried beneath the Mariana trench will realize that Peter and Bobby are cooked. It's no longer possible in a mainstream studio film to up the ante on gross-out humor.

And there was much rejoicing at Pajiba. Unfortunately and while the movie only brought in $14 million that weekend, the entire box-office run resulted in a $127 million windfall. Exactly how did this happen?

Further, I remain puzzled as to why critics (including myself) used to consider the Farrelly Bros. as a guilty pleasure but now roll our collective eyes to witness the continued stream of dick and poop jokes. Are their movies really worse than they used to be, or have we simply matured as an audience? Why did we previously find it hilarious to witness Jeff Daniels enduring an endless stream of diarrhea upon the toilet or watch Jim Carrey discuss how he named a pet store "I Got Worms" before fantasizing about kissing Lauren Holly and lifting up her skirt to show us her naked ass? Not to mention the fact that critics generally enjoyed watching Jack Black fall in love with a morbidly obese girl or thrilled at Ben Stiller's beans-and-franks/"bleeder" experience yet drew the line at Stiller's reaction to vaginal flatulence. In response to this sort of question, a FilmDrunk commenter speculates that the Farrelly Bros. have lost their edge because "[R]eality TV and the internet have taught us that real life is way more fucked up than anything the Farrelly brothers could imagine. Their career ended the day '2 Girls 1 Cup' went viral." He might have a point, but I don't believe that can fully explain their dwindling appeal. Quite frankly, this duo's shtick continues to (and will always) rely almost solely upon bodily function jokes. It's all gotten a bit tired.

Prognosis: Of course, there's the possibility that the duo's built-in audience has merely matured to a point where, say, vaginal flatulence no longer reels in the laughs. This theory further postulates that the Farrelly Bros. haven't done the necessary legwork to court a younger audience; this assumption is further supported by the premise of this weekend's Hall Pass, which is geared towards folks of a married age who would allegedly find humor in the prospect of taking a week away from their own stifling marriages. Now, I'm not sure whether the boys have matured at all with Hall Pass, but the reported inclusion of a 40-year old male character who takes a dump on a golf course doesn't exactly lend much hope.

Naturally, a lot rides upon whether or not the film sinks or swims this weekend, so we'll see what happens. On the horizon, the Farrelly Brothers only have the forever-gestating The Three Stooges and Walter the Farting Dog. Where the former is concerned, I wouldn't bet on the movie crawling out of development hell anytime soon. As to the latter, casting the Jonas Brothers probably isn't the smartest move and just might translate into a financial stinker. Then, maybe the Farrelly Bros. will finally be over.

Agent Bedhead lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She and her little black heart can be found at agentbedhead.com.


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