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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Cast: Adam Sandler, Al Pacino, Katie Holmes

Director: Dennis Dugan

“Umm, so which was the last Adam Sandler movie I found funny, and how old was I when I watched it? Don’t remember, and that’s so scary, I don’t want to think about it.”

“Do I really want to see Adam Sandler do an Eddie Murphy? Well, more importantly, do I want to see him hug himself? Like, literally?”

Every time I find myself in a conundrum, those questions are usually followed by a rather more pertinent one: “Do I have a couple of hours to spare, and am I getting paid to spend them?”

And so, that’s how I found myself at Jack and Jill. Well, that, and I’ve had a crush on Al Pacino since I saw Michael bite into an orange when I was six years old. Michael Corleone, you know. Yeah. There was something about him. No one eats oranges that way, or something. I was glad every time he got single. Moving on. 

Okay, so this movie’s about a successful dude, Jack Sadelstein (Adam Sandler), with a pretty-if-aging wife Erin (Katie Holmes), two little kids (Rohan Chand and Elodie Tougne), and a spinster sister Jill (Adam Sandler), who’s visiting.

When a guy plays his own twin sister, you know there’ll be gags about armpit hair, body odour, and digestive processes. Sure enough, there’s a plethora of toilet humour in Jack and Jill, augmented by crotch-scratches, sweat stains, and farts. You sense most of the jokes in the dialogue from a mile away, but you laugh every now and then – sort of like watching a stand-up show by an enterprising comedian, the original of whose plagiarised material you’ve already caught on YouTube.

The humour is mostly juvenile – yes, the non-toilet humour too. When Jack suggests Jill Skype them, instead of visiting, she comes up with, I don’t even know what that is, it sounds anti-Semitic”. When he explains, she whines, “You know I don’t have a calculator.”

So, what saves Jack and Jill from being a run-of-the-mill comedy with a lisping uggo for its star? Well, nothing. What makes it a run-of-the-mill comedy you won’t regret watching?

Al Pacino for one. He clearly loves his lighter roles, and he’s almost always made them click. This one is replete with in-jokes about his own life and career, including fans’ tendencies to mix up his and Marlon Brando’s hobbies and habits.

A smart-arse gardener for another, complete with his Mexican family. Eugenio Derbez, also in a double role, pulls off his gags – clichéd as they are – by getting so into his character you don’t find it amiss.

And the third factor is something that has become rather a common trend in Hollywood – guest appearances by celebrities playing themselves, exaggerating their quirks. The surprise and timing in context are what make those work, so I’ll keep mum about who does what.

There are several episodes involving fauna that made me go, “What the hell kind of animals are these? Trained (in which case PETA would have been all over the shooting spot)? Or animated (in which case the guy handling the CG knows his job rather well)?”

One can hardly hope for subtlety in Adam Sandler’s brand of comedy. To his credit, though, he’s found good enough actors to pull off hints. To his detriment, he doesn’t seem to realise it, and neither does Dennis Dugan. The kids – one of whom is an adopted Indian-origin boy – have quirky penchants, but they’re only funny when they aren’t rubbed in. However, the filmmakers focus their cameras rather too often on these, as if to make sure everyone gets it.

Suggestions of an almost incestuous connection between twins are, again, emphasised rather than implicit, but fortunately, are offset by a series of bites by pairs of real-life twins, which – though predictable – fit in quite nicely.

The last few minutes turn rather too maudlin, and the comic relief at the end isn’t quite enough to make up.

The Verdict: If you’re bored and have an afternoon to spare, this movie’s a pretty good idea, but don’t expect too much.


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