They hire a private eye, Matt Dillon, to locate Mary, and determine if she is still hot and single. Dillon instead falls for Mary, and through surveillance, learns enough about her romantic interests to passably impersonate her ideal man. They start dating, but he soon acquires an enemy in Lee Evans, a handicapped British architect with a romantic interest in Mary.
Meanwhile, Stiller becomes suspicious of the false information provided to him by Dillon. He travels to Miami with Elliott, and succeeds in meeting and dating Mary. But his rivals, Dillon and Evans, team up to sabotage his efforts.
How others will see it. Unlike the prior Farrelly Brothers movie, Kingpin, There's Something About Mary was a box office smash, earning a whopping 300M in worldwide box office gross. Understandable, the critics were mixed, but the movie did receive two prestigious Golden Globe nominations, for Best Comedy and Best Actress (Diaz).
Today at imdb.com, the movie has a huge 250K user votes, though the user rating of 7.1 out of 10 is not particularly high. Interestingly, no generation gap exists, but a gender gap is palpable. Men prefer it, 7.2 versus 6.6 for women. User reviews from male viewers heap praise upon the comedy. Many men will find the movie hilarious.
It may be that women disapprove of the dog getting drugged and shocked, or the violence inflicted on hapless Ben Stiller, or Dillon's creepy surveillance of Mary.
How I felt about it. There is indeed something about Mary. She is the living embodiment of a male fantasy: pretty, thin, athletic, friendly, single, and making big money as a doctor. The only downside is her attachment to her bearish and mentally disturbed brother. But he's good for a laugh too, as long as you don't touch his ears.
It's no wonder that men go to great lengths to get her, except for Brett Favre, who is only in for the one-off gag and the cameo paycheck. Men will impersonate Peace Corps volunteers or handicapped British architects, they will drug dogs, they will stalk and eavesdrop, they will tell incriminating lies against their competitors, all for another shot at Mary.
And it's all for our benefit, for we can laugh at them. For once in a Farrelly Brothers film, the crude gags typically work. The dead dog won't be resuscitated by Matt Dillon's CPR, or his makeshift electroshock treatment, but returns to his former glory with a splash of water. We also laugh at Tambor and Dillon's self-serving script, monitored with predictable fawning by Diaz's finicky but naive girlfriends, and at Keith David's joke about Mary already off to the prom with her former boyfriend.
Of course, it doesn't all work. Singer Jonathan Richman and his mock drummer Tommy Larkins get in the way of the comedy. Chris Elliott's character doesn't need the shoe fetish or the weird skin disease, the "frank and beans" segment is hard to watch, and the hitchhiker is much less funny than the rest area raid.
Kudos belong to Lee Evans and Matt Dillon. Ben Stiller is at least likable, and he doesn't camp it up like Farrelly's usual go-to-guy James Carrey. The closing video, to The Foundations oldie "Build Me Up Buttercup", is amusing.