There’s Something About Mary

There’s Something About Mary (1998)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Cast: Matt Dillon, Ben Stiller, Cameron Diaz
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurette, Music Video

"There’s Something About Mary" has been one of the major surprise box office hits of last year. A romantic comedy that blew everything out of the water completely unexpectedly, drawing huge crowds into theaters and eventually making almost $180 million at the American box office and another $140 million overseas. Not too shabby for a film that has been produced on a $25 million budget. 20th Century Fox Home Video has now finally released "There’s Something About Mary" on DVD and it was in eager anticipation that I inserted the disc into the DVD player to see how it shapes up in its royal home video incarnation.

Ted Stroehmann (Ben Stiller) is a high school nerd who’s hardly hitting it on with the girls, but for some reason Mary Jensen Matthews (Cameron Diaz), the school’s most popular girl is strongly attracted to him. They plan to go to the prom together but a very unusual and humiliating accident puts Ted in a peculiar situation and to hospital as a result. I am not giving away what’s happening here – you have to see this to believe it!

After the incident the two loose sight of each other but thirteen years later Ted is still thinking about Mary. He has not had a single girlfriend ever since and when his daydreams become unbearable he decides to hire a private eye to find out the whereabouts of his lost love. Pat (Matt Dillon), the detective manages indeed to track Mary down and immediately falls in love with the outgoing girl. He leads Ted on a cold trail and then starts courting Mary himself. Armed with is private-eye gadgets he is able to hear every word she says while he’s not around, and immediately makes up his life story as he goes along to pose as the perfect man. Soon he learns that he is not the only one trying to get the girl, though, and a fierce competition flares up. In the meanwhile Ted finds out what really happened and is soon on his way to Miami to meet Mary and tell her he still loves her. The result is a riotous chaos of liars and lovers.

Created by the two brothers Bobby and Peter Farrelly – those are the same guys who brought us comedies like "Dumb & Dumber" and "Kingpin" – this film is a thrill-ride toying with the problems of adolescent sexuality and romancing in general, mocking them into absurdity. The film is constantly using stylistic elements for a number of comical realms to keep the action exciting and the humor interesting. From straight physical slapstick humor to sitcom all the way to cleverly placed innuendo, the film covers the entire palette of comedy. It is very charming at doing that and hardly gets silly or predictable. As a matter of fact, many of the jokes and situations are quite inventive and intricately woven into each other, making "There’s Something About Mary" a greatly enjoyable and funny movie experience.

Interestingly "There’s Something About Mary" constantly walks the thin line between cleverly written comedy and silly slapstick, which can be very dangerous. In the hands of the Farrelly brothers however the formula succeeds, squeezing every bit of laughability out of jokes without ever really going too far. The humor is very direct and unambiguous, not to say lewd at times, which might have been one of the factor’s for the movie’s success and appeal. The hair gel scene itself is cult material and it is only one of a rapid fire series of jokes in this screwball comedy.

Having said all that, the most convincing part about "There’s Something About Mary" are the actors however, who deliver their lines and characters in a great and memorable way. Ben Stiller’s character has a lot of sympathy simply through his on-screen presence, and Stiller manages to keep him always on the edge of being a lovable shy geek rather than a hopeless fool. Stiller is nicely complemented by Lee Evans, who unfortunately plays a rather small, although important, part in the film. Cameron Diaz plays the titular Mary and uses her entire charming personality to create a lovable character that is convincing, attractive and heartwarming. Her natural radiance helps make Mary the center of attention as soon as she enters the screen. Without question the real highlight of the film is Matt Dillon however, whose portrayal of the sleazy private eye is not only screamingly funny, but clearly shows how much fun he must have had playing the part.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment are presenting "There’s Something About Mary" in its original 1.85:1 <$PS,widescreen> aspect ratio on this DVD in a non-<$16x9,anamorphic> transfer. This image quality is meticulous and comes from a very clean print that does not exhibit any signs of damage or wear. The overall picture quality on the DVD is excellent with plenty of detail and well-defined edges throughout. Never do the images show over-enhancement or ringing artifacts. From the dark nighttime scenes to the brightest daylight shots, the image is always perfectly clean and defined on this disc, maintaining plenty of detail and solid, deep shadows throughout. The color reproduction is also natural looking with very faithfully rendered fleshtones and strong colors. Blacks and highlights are well balanced, creating a truly pleasing picture quality altogether. There are no compression artifacts on this disc and <$chroma,chroma noise> is not evident anywhere. It is a truly sweet looking DVD that is as charming as the film itself, actually.

The movie contains a good <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> track. Just as the images, this soundtrack sounds very natural and uses a lively ambience to establish the outdoor settings. It is a balanced mix that has crystal clear high ends, as well as a good bass extension that is neither exaggerated nor obtrusive. Dialogue is perfectly placed and matched with the soundtrack, always keeping it above the rest of the other sonic elements, thus ensuring it is understandable at any given time. "There’s Something About Mary" mostly uses familiar pop tunes as music but also has some original elements sprinkled within. They are nicely orchestrated and placed in the overall mix.

Spiced up with funny menu screens and a number of bonus material, this DVD is sure to please DVD owners. It contains a Karaoke music video, the film’s trailer and outtakes from the film, including never-before-seen footage. To top it off, Fox included a <$commentary,commentary track> with the Farrelly Brothers that is witty and enlightening at the same time.

This DVD from Fox is clearly a pleaser, making sure no one will be disappointed by its presentation on this disc – apart from the fact that it is not <$16x9,16x9 enhanced>. It is a great looking disc with nice supplements and whether you liked the film in theaters and want to revisit it, or if you finally want to find out what the fuzz is all about, this DVD is a great addition to anyone’s collection.