That, rather than an accident of physiology, is the underlying premise of Peter and Bobby Farrelly’s Stuck on You. Of course, the brothers get an awful lot of laughs out of the specific circumstance of their heroes, another pair of brothers named Bob (Matt Damon) and Walt (Greg Kinnear) Tenor. The two are conjoined twins, fated to travel or not to travel only when they agree on a destination.
When the action begins, the two are living happily in Oak Bluffs, the ferry terminal town on Massachusetts island Martha’s Vineyard. Demon short-order cooks at their own small restaurant, the two have developed a modus vivendi that far exceeds the bounds of mere adaptation. The pair are, for instance, the goaltenders on their adult-amateur hockey team. While Bob is shy and uncomfortable around women, Walt is a practicing lothario. Walt is the star of the local community theater and while Bob suffers from panic-inducing stage fright, he’s still found a way to “hide” on stage while Walt emotes. The adaptation is strictly the townsfolk’s, who don’t seem to notice that Bob and Walt are joined above hip (they only share a liver) except when, as on the ice rink, it’s a boon.
Walt lusts after a professional acting career in Los Angeles, while Bob wants to spend the rest of his years in Oak Bluffs. But Bob agrees to trade coasts because he’s had a three-year email relationship with Angeleno May Fong (Wen Yann Shih) and Walter is able to cajole him into finally bringing actuality to supplant virtuality.
So Stuck on You’s premise gives way to a series of mostly mild, but admirably consistent gags and hijinks set in Los Angeles. As is the case when the Farrellys or any other comic talents are on their game, most of the laughs result from character, although there’s plenty of slapstick. The boys meet May plus an endearingly optimistic and cheerful starlet (Eva Mendes), a superannuated agent (Seymour Cassel), and a pair of real-life stars, Cher (who has a major part) and Meryl Streep (a cameo). Bob’s stolidity and Walter’s glibness ping back and forth between each other and between them and their various new friends all the way up the Hollywood ladder and, eventually, back down to earth.
Comparing apprentices to masters is always a dangerous game; it leads people to jump to conclusions. There’s no denying, however, that the comic filmmaker the Farrellys most resemble is Preston Sturges. The eye for social foibles and the capacious embrace of eccentrics and eccentricity make for unmistakably common foundation between these still young filmmakers and their historic forebear.
Ultimately, it is that embrace of insistent individuality and character that animates Stuck on You. The islander community and the Hollywood crowd are both funny and dignified. No matter how funny their actions or speech, they’re all having so much obvious fun that you want to join them, not patronize them. Damon’s Bob and Kinnear’s Walt are so vividly unique and mutually dependent, that they fascinate and seduce; they’re never at a distance and thus never freaks or the butt of jokes.
Stuck on You thus turns out to be an unexpectedly seasonal pleasure, a gift a smiling humanity.