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'Stuck on You' lacks laughs

<strong><font face="Arial">Greg Kinnear and Matt Damon star as conjoined twins in this new film by the Farrelly Brothers. By John Hartl.</font></strong></p>

What’s so funny about Siamese twins? For most of its two hours, “Stuck on You” doesn’t appear to have a clue, yet it does flirt with treating the subject seriously.

This might sound like the last approach you’d expect from the Farrelly brothers, Peter and Bobby, who created “Dumb and Dumber,” the remarkably raunchy “There’s Something About Mary” and other popular gross-out comedies.

They did, however, venture into similar territory a couple of years ago with “Shallow Hal,” which treated obesity with some sympathy. “Stuck on You” goes a little further in its celebration of the brotherly bonds that tie Bob (Matt Damon) and Wade (Greg Kinnear), conjoined twins who share not only a liver but a deep affection for each other.

Bob and Wade seem happy flipping burgers at the Martha’s Vineyard restaurant they run, and they’re surrounded by a community that seems just as delighted to be fed by them. But Wade longs to become a successful actor, and Bob agrees to accompany him to Hollywood, where they meet Meryl Streep, Griffin Dunne and Cher (all of whom demonstrate what good sports they are by playing and lightly mocking themselves).

Cher even ends up co-starring with Wade in a cheesy hit television series, “Honey and the Beaze.” This requires careful camerawork in order to crop Bob out of the frame. As director Dunne puts it, “the kid stays out of the picture.” When word gets out that Wade is Bob’s attached twin, the show goes through the roof, and the fickle fans demand Wade’s autograph, not Cher’s.

In the meantime, the boys have acquired girlfriends, one of whom (Wen Yann Shih) is so dim that she assumes they’re gay when she finds Bob and Wade sharing a bed. Which raises a question: she spent how many days not noticing that they’re literally joined at the hip?

While some of this is mildly amusing, anyone expecting the Farrellys to crash the bad-taste humor barrier again will most likely be bored (most outrageous throwaway moment: Cher in bed with a famous teenager). There are long stretches during which the jokes just disappear - even the bad ones - and the filmmakers risk sappiness by emphasizing the relationship between Bob and Wade.

Fortunately, Damon and Kinnear are deft enough to avoid the traps of the stickier moments. Both actors focus on the tricky logistics of being physically attached to another person, especially when the boys are punching out each other’s lights (there’s a sly hint of split personality in these scenes) or maneuvering for a comfortable sleeping position.

How do you sleep on your side if you share a side? Now you’ll know.

Kinnear, as the showier Wade, does mean impersonations of Ted Koppel and Truman Capote and co-stars with Streep in a most unlikely musical version of “Bonnie and Clyde.” Damon, emphasizing Bob’s panic attacks and his non-actorish nature, is endearingly accommodating. By story’s end, whatever you think of the film, you’ll be convinced these two really do belong together.

John Hartl is the film critic for