Category Archives: Ben Stiller

There’s Something About Mary-1998

There’s Something About Mary-1998

Director Peter Farrelly, Bobby Farrelly

Starring Ben Stiller, Cameron Diaz, Matt Dillon

Scott’s Review #1,428

Reviewed June 16, 2024

Grade: B+

Since many films are released within the romantic comedy genre most are disposable and forgettable. Very few stand out initially let alone stand the test of time.

Decades later, There’s Something About Mary (1998) holds up well mostly because of its chemistry and laugh-out-loud memorable moments. It also has a heart and is not mean-spirited showcasing a brewing romance people can relate to.

Watching in 2024 particularly interesting is the appeal of Cameron Diaz since retired from acting, and a young Ben Stiller who was then in his heyday and a box-office gem. Brett Favre, who then was a superstar NFL quarterback makes a cameo appearance.

Pleasing is to watch a hit film from decades ago that still offers appeal.

Ted’s (Ben Stiller) unexpected dream prom date with Mary (Cameron Diaz) in 1985 is disastrous due to an embarrassing injury at her home causing them never to get to the prom. Mary leaves town shortly after.

Thirteen years later, pre-social media in 1998, Ted hires shady investigator Pat Healy (Matt Dillon) to track down Mary so he can reconnect with her. Pat becomes obsessed with her and lies to Ted about Mary, finding out everything he can about her to trick her into dating him.

Ted realizes the truth and travels to meet Mary in Miami, Florida where she is a successful orthopedic surgeon to reconnect with her.

Instantaneous hilarity comes to mind from two legendary scenes involving Ben Stiller’s Ted that most people have heard of.

While using the bathroom at Mary’s house before leaving for the prom Ted gets his private parts or ‘frank and beans’, caught in his zipper. Every male viewer will squirm in imagined discomfort but the hijinks with Mary’s parents and neighborhood firefighters who get involved make the sequence legendary.

This pairs well with a later scene when Ted masturbates just before his date with Mary to relax. Mary mistakes some ‘residue’ on Ted’s ear for hair gel and hilariously applies it to her hair causing it to stick straight up in the air during dinner.

Both scenes still feel fresh and natural years later and are now historical.

The introduction of Tucker (Lee Evans) a third admirer of Mary doesn’t work so well in hindsight. The revelation that he is not a British architect but merely a pizza deliverer who injured his back to get close to Mary feels forced and unnecessary.

The triangle between Ted/Mary/Pat is just enough.

The inclusion factors are impressive. In 1985, Mary had a black stepfather and a mentally disabled brother both of whom she adores. When Ted drives from Rhode Island to Florida he stops at a rest area and is assumed to be gay. This is preceded by a session with a psychiatrist who suspects Ted may be gay.

These additions go a long way to showcase normalcy in these individual areas.

It’s also impressive that the Farrelly brothers (Peter and Bobby), who direct the film, make Mary a surgeon paving the way for female viewers to aspire to the same.

There’s Something About Mary gets a slight knock for exploiting female breasts, Mary is seen at least twice through a window putting on a bra while a male spies on her from the distance.

The characters are benevolent especially Ted and Mary making it easy for the audience to root for them. Thanks to the tremendous chemistry between Diaz, Stiller, and Dillon, There’s Something About Mary (1998) feels fresh and romantic without a forced feeling.

Madagascar-2005

Madagascar-2005

Director Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath

Voices Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer

Scott’s Review #1,247

Reviewed April 17, 2022

Grade: B-

Madagascar (2005) is a film that I found mildly entertaining but struggled to enjoy as much as others might. Films with a target audience of ages thirteen and under are a tough sell for me because I don’t see them very often.

Having no children I have few opportunities to join in on the children’s games or sit at the kiddie table and get in that mindset.

Nonetheless, this film somehow crossed my radar.

It’s lighthearted and juvenile but playfully fun sending a positive message of friendship and dedication. Not a fan of the zoo at all my curiosity was piqued at how this angle would be represented if at all.

Would the captivity of the zoo face off against the natural African wildlife?

The screenwriters tread safe waters keeping their audience in mind and don’t go for any deep message or environmental or animal issues, playing it quite safe.

Madagascar suffers from blandness and predictability knowing that the audience isn’t quite ready to think outside the box and their parents will obediently sit beside them watching the film.

The result is a film brimming with possibilities that it never realizes. It’s a ready-made family film and nothing more.

Alex the Lion (Ben Stiller) is the king of the urban jungle and the main draw at New York’s Central Park Zoo. He and his best friends Marty the zebra (Chris Rock), Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer), and Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) have spent their lives at the zoo with admiring fans and tasty meals provided for them.

In their minds, they have it pretty good.

Yet Marty yearns for more and lets his curiosity get the better of him when he escapes the zoo to explore the world. He and his friends wind up on a ship back to Africa and are then shipwrecked on Madagascar and left to fend for themselves in the wild.

They face dangers and allies during their adventures and wrestle with either returning to the zoo or staying in their natural habitat.

There is plenty of humor to occupy the crowd but most of the jokes are tepid or fall flat altogether. They have very little substance to offer but rather are silly gags meant to keep the adventure going.

Big stars like Rock, Schwimmer, and Stiller are cast most likely to appeal to parents forced to go to the show with their kids. Recognizable voices always sell tickets in the animated world.

Secondary characters work better than the main cast. Sacha Baron Cohen as King Julien XIII is a standout.

Mildly entertaining and soft touch in its approach Madagascar (2005) left me feeling dull and yearning for something a bit more challenging and robust in the field of kid’s film.

Its intent is merely to entertain and not to challenge so the result is a middle-of-the-road experience for me.

I’ll take the Toy Story (1995-2019) films any day.

Tropic Thunder-2008

Tropic Thunder-2008

Director Ben Stiller

Starring Ben Stiller, Robert Downey, Jr.

Scott’s Review #593

Reviewed January 8, 2017

Grade: D-

Tropic Thunder (2008) was a ridiculous film that I found to be harsh, tedious, and very loud. Attempting to be a satire of sorts, it fails on almost every level.

The main issue was with the characters, who are abrasive and unlikable.

The only redeeming qualities are Robert Downey Jr.’s and Tom Cruise’s portrayals, though they both play idiotic characters.

The plot is something of an ode to 1979’s Apocalypse Now, in that the plot throws back to the Vietnam war.

A group of narcissistic actors is filming a Vietnam memoir on location in the jungles of Southeast Asia when they are abandoned and forced to fend for themselves amid a group of drug lords.

The film’s attempt at humor fell flat for me. It just seemed like a group of crazed guys running around the jungle acting wild and the film held little point for me.

Cruise’s part was interesting but way too small.

Directed by, and starring Ben Stiller, who should stick to acting (if that).

How Downey, Jr. scored an Oscar nomination for this drivel is beyond me- despite his acting being one of the better efforts in the film.

Oscar Nominations: Best Supporting Actor-Robert Downey Jr.

Tower Heist-2011

Tower Heist-2011

Director Brett Ratner

Starring Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy

Scott’s Review #160

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Reviewed August 29, 2014

Grade: D

Tower Heist (2011) is a completely formulaic, by-the-numbers comedy with absolutely no surprises or, frankly, creativity.

It tells the story of a luxury high-rise apartment manager named Josh Kovacs, weakly played by Ben Stiller and set in New York City, whose favorite tenant, a businessman named Arthur Shaw, played by Alan Alda is arrested for involvement in a Ponzi scheme.

The entire staff’s pensions have been squandered, thanks to Josh entrusting Shaw with the funds, and he strives to return the money to the rightful owners via a team of staff and an ex-con, played by Eddie Murphy. They team up and attempt to locate millions of dollars hidden in Shaw’s apartment.

If this film was a starring vehicle with Ben Stiller in mind, it was done horribly. He has been much funnier in There’s Something About Mary (1998) or Meet the Parents (2000).

Tower Heist has some similarities to the film Ocean’s Eleven (2001) since the score is recognizable and mirrors that film. The band of players is similar to that film and the look of it reminds me of it too.

Murphy plays a silly, stereotypical role, and zero chemistry exists within the group striving to retain the money.

There is also no chemistry between Stiller and Tea Leoni, who plays an FBI agent with a phony Queens accent that I found laugh-out-loud bad.

Nothing worked in this film since it was one tired gag after another and completely predictable.

I will admit that the two minor positives in Tower Heist were Alan Alda who it’s always great to see him in films, and the interesting choice of a luxurious high-rise setting with cool, ritzy interiors taken from real buildings in New York City.

Otherwise, Tower Heist (2011) is a complete dud.