When Paramount claimed Oct. 5, 2007, as the release date for the highly anticipated Ben Stiller comedy The Heartbreak Kid last year, other studios quickly moved their projects out of the way. Few wanted to go up against a box office champ like Stiller — especially when he was reteaming with the Farrelly brothers, the directors behind his 1998 megahit There’s Something About Mary.
Turns out there wasn’t much to fear. With a disappointing $14 million bow, Heartbreak was bested by Disney’s family flick The Game Plan, which was in its second week. So what happened? Insiders say the comedy — a ribald update of the 1972 classic — suffered from a marketing campaign that was hampered by an R rating, preventing the studio from sharing the film’s funniest moments. Critics, meanwhile, called Kid ”mean-spirited,” ”misogynistic,” and ”unfunny.” Audiences agreed, slapping the movie with a CinemaScore grade of C-. Says one source close to the production, ”There is a disconnect between Ben and adults. He’s easy to market to kids — but with adults it’s the same expressions all the time.” Of course, Stiller has bounced back before (who remembers Duplex?), and he’s poised to make good with the 2008 action parody Tropic Thunder, which he’s also directing, as well as a sequel to the hit animated movie Madagascar. The bigger question is whether the Farrelly brothers — who haven’t had a hit since 2001’s Shallow Hal — can ever regain their raunchy box office throne.
A look at Peter and Bobby Farrelly’s biggest hits
There’s Something About Mary (1998) — $176.5
Dumb and Dumber (1994) — $127.2
Me, Myself, and Irene (2000) — $90.6
Shallow Hal (2001) — $70.8
(Domestic grosses, in millions)