Sandler doesn't double our fun
By Michael O'Sullivan
Friday, Nov 11, 2011
There are Adam Sandler movies, and then there are Happy Madison movies. In the first category are films starring Sandler but not necessarily produced by him (or, rather, by his company). The former list includes such well-received titles as "Punch-Drunk Love," by Paul Thomas Anderson, and "Funny People," by Judd Apatow.
In the latter category, there's "Little Nicky," "Grown Ups" and now "Jack and Jill," a lowbrow drag comedy in which Sandler plays both Jack, a successful, attractive L.A. advertising director, and Jack's identical twin sister, Jill, an overweight, abrasive harpy with a room-temperature I.Q. Like all Happy Madison productions (named after two of the actor's popular early comedies, "Happy Gilmore" and "Billy Madison"), it cannot really be said to be good or bad, any more than dumping a bag of marbles onto a bathroom scale can be said to result in an accurate weight. It is what it is - and, more important, exactly what Happy Madison fans want it to be: something unruly, stupid and sort of funny, in the same way - and to exactly the same extent - that passing gas is funny.
There is a lot of passing gas in "Jack and Jill." In fact, the movie opens with it, in a montage of home movies showing Jack and Jill as flatulent toddlers in a bathtub. That running joke culminates in a scene in which Jill, having just eaten Mexican food for the first time, rushes to Jack's bathroom for an attack of what is laughingly referred to as "chimichanga bombs." Jack's reaction to Jill's loud and lengthy release is to ask whether Evel Knievel is popping wheelies in there.
I am not remotely kidding when I say that Jack's line is the high point of wit in the film, which is directed by Dennis Dugan (a veteran of several Happy Madison productions, including "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry"). The unsurprisingly bon-mot-free script is by Steve Koren, Robert Smigel and Ben Zook.
Why it took three of them to come up with the story, in which a Thanksgiving visit by Jill turns into an eight-week nightmare for Jack - and an 89-minute one for you - is anyone's guess. So is the question of who exactly told Sandler that his impression of a woman was funny. At one point in the film, for reasons that have to do with a date with Al Pacino - yes, that Al Pacino - Jack pretends to be Jill, with cantaloupes for breasts, poorly applied makeup and a lisping, high-pitched honk of a voice.
The unapologetic laziness and ineptitude of Jack's impersonation, which is played for cheap laughs, is just as lazy as Sandler's performance as the real Jill. You don't buy it for a minute.
Not that you're meant to.
There's always been a cut-rate feel to Happy Madison films, which often play like extended television sketches. And who's got money left over anyway, after paying for appearances by people such as Pacino and Katie Holmes, who plays Jack's wife. Then there are all the cameos: Regis Philbin, Shaquille O'Neal, Johnny Depp, John McEnroe, Drew Carey, Christie Brinkley, Bruce Jenner, Jared Fogle (the Subway sandwich guy) and Vince Offer (the ShamWow guy). When you factor in salaries for Sandler's old "SNL" pals Norm MacDonald, David Spade, Dana Carvey and Tim Meadows, it's no wonder Sandler had to take on two roles. (Spade, by the way, also plays a woman, and you almost don't recognize him. He puts his boss to shame.)
Of course, half the film takes place on a Royal Caribbean Cruise ship, whose prominently displayed logo makes the film look like an infomercial. It's the most egregious example of product placement I've seen.
When I got home, my son asked me which one - Jack or Jill - was funnier. Considering that Jack is the straight man, who goes out of his way not to get laughs, and that Jill borders on the unendurable, it was a trick question.
Contains scatological humor and slapstick violence.