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MOVIE REVIEW

The Farrellys stick to their formula with `Stuck on You'

"Stuck on You" may be the most personal movie Bobby and Peter Farrelly have ever made, but don't think the boys from Rhode Island are going soft on us: You won't find the Coen brothers coming up with a gross-out comedy about the perils and pratfalls of conjoined twins. Made with their patented mixture of lowbrow yuks, the occasional high fastball, and proudly provincial sentimentality, "Stuck" doesn't come close to "There's Something About Mary" -- still the Farrellys' peak -- but it's half a notch above "Shallow Hal" and a good deal funnier than landfill like "Me, Myself & Irene."

 

That said, story lines don't come any clammier. Bob and Walt Tenor (Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear, respectively, both game for anything) have grown up on Martha's Vineyard attached at the waist but no less socially the worse for wear: They run a popular hamburger joint, are fixtures of the community, and make an unstoppable goalie combination in the local hockey league. Maybe they have to watch out for street lamps while jogging, but that's about it.

Toss out any notions you may have about the biological impossibility of conjoined fraternal twins, and forget that Kinnear looks older than Damon while you're at it -- we're in Farrelly-land, where there's an adorable mentally challenged actor to be both embraced and exploited around every corner and where Walt can pick up a hot babe in a bar without drawing a double take. Bob's the shy jock of the pair, while Walt's the smoothie with acting aspirations; his community playhouse performance of the one man show "Tru," with a panic-stricken Bob sweating it out behind him, is one of the movie's most felicitously goofy inventions.

"Stuck on You" turns broader and sillier when the two move to Hollywood so Walt can pursue his dream. They set up camp in a tatty motel complex, where their neighbor, April (Eva Mendes), is a lingerie model who "doesn't have an agent momentarily," and where Bob stalls on contacting his truehearted Internet girlfriend May (Wen Yann Shih), who thinks he's single. Really single.

Naive as they are, the heroes are drawn more and more sympathetically as the Farrellys stack oddball LA types around them like cordwood. Some of these are brilliant caricatures, like Seymour Cassel's Methuselah of an agent, stuck in some private Lew Wasserman time warp where Walter Cronkite still anchors the CBS evening news. Others are fairly lame found objects, like motel clerk/wannabe screenwriter Moe (Terence Bernie Hines). And, confoundingly, some of them are famous Hollywood personalities on the order of Meryl Streep and Cher. Both play themselves, Streep with winking playfulness and Cher with full-on Bob-Mackie-fied self-parody. I know, that's several orders of redundancy.

Committed to a TV show she wants no part of, Cher insists that Walt be cast opposite her, and the terrified director (Griffin Dunne, as himself) tries to keep Bob out of the frame as best he can. The show's a success, the twins go on Leno -- and then they decide to go their separate ways, with drastic consequences for their relationship and the movie.

It's nice to think the Farrellys are saying each of them can't stand tall without the other brother there to prop him up. It's also nice to see them continue to cast everyone they ever went to school with as well as plow a particularly salty New England sense of humor ("Nantucket sucks" reads a T-shirt on an extra, and there's a Bill Buckner gag with a highly satisfying payoff).

But it's telling that nine movies into their career, the Farrellys have yet to sustain a consistent comic tone across the length of an entire movie. Enlightened vulgarity -- mixing a fictional porn star named Phil Rupp with dialogue references to "Annie Hall" -- may look good on paper but is nearly impossible to pull off on-screen without the cinematic equivalent of personality disorder. It's hard to be stoopid and remain smart.

I'll say this for the brothers, though: They have a properly surreal view of the film business. Late in "Stuck On You" there's a scene between Walt and Cher in which the actress seems barely able to squeeze the dialogue past her surgically modified Hollywood-Kabuki lips. The Farrellys don't make a point of it, and they don't have to. Everyone in the audience knows who the real freak is.

("Stuck on You": **)

Ty Burr can be reached at tburr@globe.com.

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