There’s Something About Mary is a 1998 comedy directed by the Farrelly brothers. In 1998, Hollywood was still capable of making funny comedies that weren’t just vulgar or empty bundles of quotes from other films, and indeed this comedy starring Cameron Diaz, Matt Dillon and Ben Stiller is still funny today after over twenty years. It also contains two or three memorable scenes that everyone knows even if they haven’t seen the entire movie, such as the hair gel one or the martial arts dog fight!
But let’s start from the plot. Teenager Ted (Ben Stiller) is in love with beautiful Mary (Cameron Diaz) and can’t believe his ears when she invites him to the prom. He shows up very excited at his house, survives the irony of his mother’s boyfriend (it’s always a pleasure to see Keith David in a film, an actor who worked with John Carpenter in The Thing in 1982 and They Live in 1988), but an accident in the bathroom blows everything up: I laughed a lot at the scene in which one by one an actual crowd enters that bathroom to see what happened to him (that zipper… Ouch…)!
Thirteen years later, poor Ted is in therapy and tells his ridiculous psychologist that he hasn’t overcome that trauma yet, as he still thinks of Mary even though he hasn’t seen her again because she moved to Florida with her family. After talking with his friend Dom (Chris Elliott, aka Bill Murray’s cameraman in Groundhog Day, 1993), Ted hires a shabby private investigator (a toothy Matt Dillon) to find Mary. Ted finds her, but he falls in love with her too! Except that both her female friends try to ruin his plans (among which I noticed Sarah Silverman who was splendid and only two years before had appeared in Star Trek: Voyager beginning a profitable career as an actress, as well as a comedian), and her disabled friend Tucker (Lee Evans), who’s in love with Mary.
In short, everyone is crazy about Mary! This simple plot gives rise to a lot of funny situations that form a surreal story which, however, makes sense from start to finish. It’s a romantic comedy that develops the comic part much more than the romantic one via a series of hilarious and memorable gags: think of the initial bathroom scene, Ted dating Mary with an unloaded gun but loses sight of the… hair gel, the drugged dog (Mary’s roommate, played by Lin Shaye, is also very funny), the final revelations in which everyone finds themselves in Mary’s living room as if they were in an Agatha Christie novel, and so on.
The Farrelly brothers don’t try to write a credible story, but they maintain the fun level for the whole movie, an impressive feat in a comedy. Many comedies begin well but then get lost on the way (like, for example, National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon 1, 1993), and romantic ones often lose sight of the comedy to focus on romance (like When Harry Met Sally…, 1989). In There’s Something About Mary, there’s almost no romance: everyone is in love with Mary simply because she’s beautiful! Of course, she’s also intelligent, she’s a successful doctor, and everyone falls in love with her at first sight dazzled by her blue eyes and by her model body (26 years old Cameron Diaz was gorgeous).
To conclude, the movie is funny, and it also seems to me that the disabled character was not meant to be offensive to anyone, even if nowadays such bold joes would probably not be allowed for fears of social media reactions. Ciao!
PS: it was nice to notice the Farrelly’s paying tribute with repeated references to that little gem of Harold and Maude (1971)!