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review added: 5/3/04



There's Something More About Mary
Widescreen Collector's Edition - 1998 (2003) - 20th Century Fox

review by Adam Jahnke of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

There's Something More About Mary: Collector's Edition Film Ratings (Theatrical/Extended): A-/B

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/B/A

Specs and Features

Disc One - The Film
119 mins (theatrical version)/134 minutes (extended version), R, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, Digipack packaging with slipcase, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at ??), audio commentary (with co-writers/co-directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly), bonus commentary (with Peter and Bobby Farrelly), audio commentary (with co-writers Ed Decter and John J. Strauss), alternate clay-animated title sequence, animated film-themed menu screens with sound, scene access (30 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1), French and Spanish (DD 2.0), subtitles: English and Spanish, Closed Captioned

Disc Two - The Extras
NR, full frame (1.33:1), single-sided, dual-layered (no layer switch), Getting Behind Mary featurette, AMC Backstory: There's Something About Mary episode, Comedy Central: Reel Comedy episode, Best Fight: Ben Stiller & Puffy the Dog segment from MTV's Video Music Awards, international poster gallery, original theatrical trailer, 13 TV spots, 7 interview featurettes (Exposing Themselves with Cameron Diaz, Matt Dillon and Ben Stiller; Up a Tree with Jonathan Richman and Tommy Larkins; Franks & Beans with W. Earl Brown; Touchdown with Brett Favre; Interview Roulette with Harland Williams; Puffy, Boobs and Balls with Lin Shaye and makeup designer Tony Gardner; Behind the Zipper), Around the World with Mary segment, Build Me Up Buttercup karaoke video, Every Day Should Be a Holiday music video by the Dandy Warhols, outtakes, Easter egg, animated film-themed menu screens with sound, languages: English (DD 2.0 Surround)


When it comes to reviewing comedies, the only critics who really matter are the people around you who share your sense of humor. Comedies do not, and usually are not, shining examples of the myriad possibilities of the motion picture. They don't have to be beautifully or even necessarily imaginatively filmed. They don't have to have millions of dollars worth of incredible visual effects. All that matters is whether or not they make you laugh. And no one will know what makes you laugh better than your friends and family. If Roger Ebert pans a comedy as one of the worst films he's ever seen but your best friend you've known since high school says it's hysterical and you've gotta see it, who are you going to listen to?

Consequently, the fact that I think There's Something About Mary is one of the funniest movies of the 1990's may mean even less to you than what I usually have to say on this site. The movie's been out for over five years now and chances are that you've seen it and formed your own opinion about it long ago. If you didn't like it in the first place, you're not going to like it anymore now. Thanks for stopping by. If you do like it, I'm here to bring you good news. The movie stands the test of time much better than I thought it would.

The phrase "familiarity breeds contempt" may not have been coined with movie comedies in mind but it certainly could have. So many times, a movie that seemed gut-bustingly hilarious the first time around seems downright embarrassing when you revisit it. This is because mediocre comedy depends on shock and surprise to get you laughing. Once you know the joke, it ain't funny anymore. Great comedy overcomes that and remains funny no matter how many times you see it. I'm not proud of the fact that I can literally recite Monty Python and the Holy Grail verbatim and in its entirety along with the movie (though I hasten to add, I usually don't). Even so, that level of familiarity hasn't lessened my appreciation of the movie itself. (Granted, if I were stupid enough to sing-along with the Pythons every time I watched it, that level of familiarity would certainly lessen the appreciation of everyone else I was with at the time.)

When I first saw Mary back in '98, I was laughing harder than I'd laughed in a movie theater in a long, long time... perhaps even since I saw Airplane! waaaay back in 1980. At both movies, I pretty much laughed non-stop throughout, to the point where I had to go back and see them a second time to catch the jokes I'd missed. Regardless, I really didn't think Mary would hold up to scrutiny all that well, thanks in part to one little word: Fox. I intentionally did not watch it again in its entirety after those initial theatrical screenings. But thanks to its repeated airings on Fox (pretty much anytime they weren't playing Independence Day), I ended up seeing plenty of it on commercial television. And each time, I thought to myself, "There goes another pleasant movie memory."

With the release of the new two-disc collector's edition of Mary, I finally watched the whole thing again the way it was meant to be seen. I was more than pleasantly surprised. There's Something About Mary holds up very well, thanks entirely to its spirited cast. Cameron Diaz is undeniably appealing as the object of everyone's affection, an ideal casting choice that rightly turned her into a major movie star. Ben Stiller, who is so often called upon to perform the comic fury he does so well, is a great leading man here. His performance is sweet without being sappy. Even the low-brow moments of physical schtick are grounded in the normality of Stiller's character. But for my money, Matt Dillon is the main event here. Dillon isn't necessarily considered the funniest guy in the world but proves himself to be a terrific comic actor in Mary. Pat Healy is basically a cartoon sleazeball and Dillon plays it to the hilt, whether he's sporting a mouthful of oversized teeth or telling Mary in all sincerity, "I work with retards."

This new edition includes both the original theatrical version of the movie as well as an extended cut running approximately 15 minutes longer. The extended version isn't a director's cut, as Peter and Bobby Farrelly were completely happy with what they released in the first place. It simply reinstates scenes and footage that ended up on the cutting room floor for a variety of reasons. The dance remix is worth watching once but won't be replacing the theatrical cut as the version of choice for anybody anytime soon. The only real problem with Mary in the first place was that it was a bit too long and that's only exacerbated in the new version. The new stuff isn't bad. In fact, if they were presented as deleted scenes, they'd rank among the best deleted scenes on disc. You get more Jeffrey Tambor (always a good thing), more of the Puffy/Stiller fight (not so much a good thing as it throws the timing off a bit), and more of a number of scenes that were originally just glimpsed in the end credits (a mixed bag). But a movie like this simply should not clock in at over two hours.

Technically, Mary looks and sounds pretty darn good on disc. The image is bright and colorful though perhaps a bit oversaturated at times. Fox has released both widescreen and full-frame versions of the movie and it's not easy telling one from the other (the widescreen one has a blue band at the top, the full-frame is pink), so buyer beware. Granted, There's Something About Mary suffers a bit less in this regard than, say, How the West Was Won but still. Comedy has its own visual language and should be given the same respect accorded to any other movie. The audio, on the other hand, is clear throughout, if perhaps a little underwhelming. It isn't a particularly active surround track but a more robust mix would not necessarily have served the movie as well.

It's well known that comedies get little respect when it comes to major awards and critical best-of round-ups. The same often holds true on DVD, where comedies more often than not get short shrift in the bonus features. Usually you'll get a commentary, perhaps a brief making-of featurette, some deleted scenes, and a whole bunch of jokey features that do nothing to illuminate the filmmaking process. There's Something More About Mary bucks that trend with two entire discs of excellent material. Disc one features commentaries upon commentaries, with the Farrelly brothers original commentary supplemented by a new "bonus" commentary in which they add further comment and insight into the film. Original writers Ed Decter and John J. Strauss also get to have their say in a separate writers' commentary. Not too surprisingly, the Farrelly track (or tracks) is superior, although Decter and Strauss do drop a number of interesting tidbits about the development of the script. Disc one also provides an alternate opening, a clay-animated title sequence that was understandably dropped because its tone clashed with the rest of the movie.

Disc two has hours of featurettes, promotional material and interviews to sink your teeth into. Starting with the existing material, episodes of AMC's Backstory and Comedy Central's Reel Comedy featuring Mary are presented along with the MTV Movie Awards sequence featuring Ben Stiller's award-winning fight with Puffy the Dog. The Backstory episode is fairly typical for this show, a brief, breezy overview of the making of the movie, not too in-depth but a good place to start. Reel Comedy isn't usually worth the videotape its shot on but in this case, it's redeemed by the manic presence of Harland Williams (the serial killer hitchhiker in Mary). The MTV sequence is pretty funny, though probably not something to watch again and again.

One of the most interesting features is Getting Behind Mary, a fly-on-the-wall look behind the scenes. There's no narration or through-line here. Just raw video footage of the Farrellys working with the cast and crew. Casual viewers might lose interest in this fairly quickly but if you're genuinely interested in how the brothers work, this can't be beat. Personally, I found this a lot more fascinating than a standard making-of documentary as it gives a clearer look at their process.

Moving on, if you want interviews, this disc has them by the truckload with featurettes spotlighting virtually every cast member (British comic Lee Evans, who played Mary's friend Tucker, is the only notable absence). All of these are worth watching but my favorite has to be Up a Tree with Jonathan Richman and Tommy Larkins. I've been a fan of Jo Jo's for a long time now and this interview captures him in all his exuberant glory. Jonathan and his longtime drummer Tommy Larkins give serious thought to such absurd questions as, "If you could spend two weeks in any era in history, what would they be?" Not to take anything away from the other interviews, with Diaz, Dillon, Stiller, Chris Elliot, W. Earl Brown (Mary's brother Warren), Harland Williams, QB Brett Favre and Lin Shaye. They're all very, very good but if you're a fan of Jonathan Richman, his interview alone makes this disc a must-own. And if you're not a fan of Jonathan's, what's the matter with you?

Rounding out the set is a handful of amusing ephemeral tidbits. Around the World with Mary offers the final scene dubbed into French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian, Thai (my favorite) and Turkish. There's a pair of music videos here, a sing-along karaoke video for Build Me Up Buttercup and the Dandy Warhols' claymation Every Day Should Be a Holiday. The marketing section of the disc includes a gallery of international posters, the original trailer and no less than 13 TV spots. Finally, there's a brief, mildly amusing collection of outtakes.

Unfortunately, the Farrelly brothers have yet to equal the success of There's Something About Mary. Since Mary came out, the brothers seem to be trying too hard to recapture the same blend of heartfelt emotion and outrageous extreme humor. Their reteaming with Dumb & Dumber star Jim Carrey in Me, Myself & Irene was only sporadically funny, while the appallingly hypocritical Shallow Hal was a complete misfire. I haven't seen the recent Stuck on You yet, so perhaps it represents a return to form. Whether or not they ever hit these heights again, it's a pleasure to know that their most successful film to date may well have what it takes to become a real comedy classic.

Adam Jahnke
ajahnke@thedigitalbits.com


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