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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

There's Something About Mary (1998)



Reviews and Comments

Most of the reviews of There's Something About Mary I've read say or imply things like, "Yes, it's in bad taste, but it's funny, so it doesn't matter," and "The bad taste is what makes it funny." I see what they're getting at. Sometimes crudeness isn't an affront if there is enough humor to cushion the blow. But there is a difference between crudeness and just plain bad taste. And bad taste is bad taste. There's no excuse for exercising deliberate bad taste, and there's no making up for it with humor. Humor that derives directly from bad taste is cheap. There's nothing to commend in it.

And so I do not join other critics in their unreserved praise for There's Something About Mary: there is one scene that constitutes, to my mind, extreme bad taste. It puts a damper on the film's value as comedy. But, fortunately, the rest of the movie manages to walk on the favorable side of the line between crudeness and bad taste. Still more fortunately, it is hilarious enough to compensate.

It's obvious the Farrelly brothers, who directed the film, have a wonderful sense of comic pacing. Several hysterical scenes exhibit a near flawless building and releasing of comic tension. They know how to extend a joke and run with it further than most would without wearing the joke out. That's a rare talent; most comedies play it safe and stop short, avoiding the pitfalls by precluding the biggest laughs.

Because of the movie's poor taste, it is not for everybody. Those willing to endure the crudeness, however, will find this quite worthwhile.