Many words could describe Peter and Bobby Farrelly, the Rhode Island filmmaking brothers behind Dumb and Dumber, Kingpin, There’s Something About Mary, and Me, Myself & Irene: “outrageous,” “blissfully tasteless,” “genuinely hilarious.” To this list, sadly, we must now add “generous to a fault.” Say It Isn’t So cannot be fully blamed on them, though it does bear the Farrelly imprimatur (“From the guys who did There’s Something About Mary,” the ads boast). They only produced the film (and reportedly did a script polish), giving it to untested friends to write and direct — and this is where “generous to a fault” comes in.
Director J.B. Rogers (the Farrellys’ former assistant director) and writers Peter Gaulke and Gerry Swallow (who appeared as motel cops in Irene) must be grateful for this shot at making their own movie. If only they had made their own movie. Say It Isn’t So is like a cretinous frat boy’s idea of what made Mary a hit. The filmmakers repay their benefactors the Farrellys with the insincerest form of flattery — not just imitation, but inept imitation. The movie piles on the grotesque sight gags and cruel humor, as if that were all there was to the Farrelly blockbusters. The sickest joke of all is that the Farrellys produced this self-ripoff; did they just want to compete with everyone else who’s ripping them off (i.e., Road Trip and its ilk)?
We have the standard Farrelly hero, Gilly (Chris Klein), a tender-hearted guy who works for the Animal Rescue League; he falls for the standard Farrelly babe, Jo (Heather Graham), a klutzy but sweet hairdresser. They’re both very boring, with none of the quirks and odd background details the Farrellys usually include. They’re ecstatic together until they learn a devastating secret (they must not have seen the movie’s ads) — they’re brother and sister. While Gilly is excoriated all over town for being an incestuous creep, the heartbroken Jo runs to devious rich boy Jack (Eddie Cibrian) and gets engaged to him. Then, of course, Gilly discovers Jo isn’t really his sister, and the movie pretty much loses whatever point it may have had.
What we have here is a wannabe-outrageous comedy that flirts with the last taboo but then retreats. This is kindergarten stuff. Anyone who’s seen Spanking the Monkey, the 1994 mother-son incest comedy by David O. Russell, knows that not only can the taboo be mined for laughs, it can be mined brilliantly and compassionately, sans jokes about getting one’s hand stuck up a cow’s orifice, or a stroke victim talking through a voice enhancer bought at Wal-Mart, or various gross-outs involving bird shit, ear-snipping, nipple piercing, or armpit sweat used as a sandwich condiment. In short, the fake-incest angle is the least offensive aspect of the movie, which is often tasteless and disgusting but never, never funny.
It’s a toss-up as to who has the most thankless scenes: Chris Klein with a fake beard made out of pubic hair; Orlando Jones as a legless guy who keeps losing his artificial limbs; Sally Field, as Jo’s mom, a white-trash gold-digger who’s ready for Jerry Springer; Sarah Silverman, as a cop with a crush on Jo’s rich fiancé, treated contemptuously in a hot-tub blow-job joke; or poor Jack Plotnick, a capable character actor who’s been good in everything from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Action, mugging unbearably as Jo’s real brother as if auditioning for The David Arquette Story.
Heather Graham, by virtue of not being onscreen a whole lot (despite her top billing), escapes most of the indignities; she should have escaped all of them. So should moviegoers, though if the opening weekend numbers are any indication, they already have. Maybe American audiences are smarter than I often give them credit for; they know a bogus Farrelly film when they see (or refuse to see) one.