Jack & Jill

Sometimes family isn’t easy.  I have a brother and sister, both significantly older than me (did you read THAT bro and sis, significantly).  I was sometimes viewed as the interloper, ruining their lives because I was born and they had to watch me instead of doing whatever it was they would have been doing had I not been conceived.  I was picked on, bullied or worse, ignored on occasion in my childhood by the people who should have loved me almost as much as my parents.  Children will behave that way toward a sibling sometimes.  Now as adults, we’re best friends and would move heaven and earth to aid comfort and protect the other.  The same can’t be said for the twin brother and sister in this week’s movie, “Jack & Jill.”
 
Jack and Jill (Adam Sandler) are twin brother and sister born in Brooklyn, New York.  They were very close growing up, even developing their own language, with Jack being the outgoing, popular twin and Jill confined mostly to the background.  Now in their 40’s, Jack lives in Los Angeles with his wife Erin (Katie Holmes) and their two kids, while Jill is single and still lives in their old neighborhood.  Each year, Jill flies out to LA to spend Thanksgiving with Jack and his family.  Jack dreads these visits as he finds his sister completely annoying.  Jack runs an advertising agency that is on the brink of failure.  His biggest client, Dunkin’ Donuts, is introducing a new coffee drink and they insist on Al Pacino (playing himself) doing the commercial.  If Jack can’t get him, they will pull their business and go with someone else, killing the agency and putting 200 people out of work.  Adding to this stress, Jill keeps finding reasons to extend her stay.  Jack has a plan to approach Pacino at a Los Angeles Lakers basketball game.  Because Jill has had some emotional upset recently (a blind date that goes very badly), Erin convinces Jack to take Jill with him.  At the game, Pacino meets Jill and is instantly smitten with her.  While she’s not interested, Jack sees this as an opportunity to use his sister to get Pacino to do the commercial and save his business.
 
I’ll be honest.  I went to “Jack & Jill” with a bad attitude.  I’m not a big fan of Adam Sandler’s movies.  I don’t think he’s that funny and his recent work that I’ve seen (“Don’t Mess with the Zohan” and “I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry”) did nothing to change that opinion.  Also adding to my negative mood where the reviews the film was receiving.  They were universally negative.  When I saw the film, Rotten Tomatoes had given it a 0% rating.  Metacritic wasn’t much better and I was prepared to rip the movie a new one; yet, I can’t.  While there’s plenty wrong with the flick, I left it with a good feeling and enjoyed it as merely what it was:  Entertainment.
 
To paraphrase Shakespeare, let me bury Sandler before I praise him.  The story of the film is pathetic.  It is a thin excuse to layer on over-the-top performances, dozens of cameos from Sandler’s friends and third-rate celebrities and the kind of humor that would insult the intelligence of the average third grader.  It also repeats the same plot point at least three times, where Jack and Jill fight, Jill storms off and Jack tries to make up for it by including Jill in some kind of family function or outing.  It grows tiresome and Jack often comes off looking like a jerk that doesn’t deserve forgiveness.  In Jack’s defense, Jill is the kind of person you want to bash in the head with a hammer or strangle with your bare hands.  She has no internal filter that edits what she says and her voice could shatter glass.
 
The film’s humor is based primarily on poop and fart jokes, celebrities behaving as we all believe they do and Jill being unattractive.  Even if she is played by a man, Jill’s looks seem like a cheap shot at women in general.  At a time when body image issues make pre-pubescent girls diet to the point of anorexia and the media’s obsession with “beautiful people” has Kim Kardashian dominating the fluff news world over either her divorce or her psoriasis, having several scenes where male characters recoil in horror or make jokes about Jill’s appearance seems unnecessarily cruel.
 
Having said all that, the film did make me laugh most of the time.  Seeing so many celebrities willing to either lampoon their image or behave way against type adds to the humor in an unexpected way.  And the number of cameos must set some kind of record with the list including Sandler’s SNL buddies Rob Schneider, David Spade, Tim Meadows, Norm Macdonald and Dana Carvey.  Other celebrities that pop up include Dan Patrick, John McEnroe, Christie Brinkley, Regis Philbin, Jared Fogel (the Subway sandwich guy), Billy Blanks (the Tae Bo guy), Vince Offer (the Sham-Wow guy), Bruce Jenner, Drew Carey, Shaquille O’Neal and more.  It’s like every agent in Hollywood owed Sandler’s production company a favor and emptied their stables to be in the movie.  The one celebrity who plays himself that isn’t a cameo is Al Pacino.  He’s in about half the movie and chewing enough scenery to have kept the set designers and carpenters busier than normal.  Pacino plays a caricature of what we expect Pacino to be like in real life based on his acting.  We see an intense, focused, troubled and unbalanced character on screen and we automatically assign those attributes to the real person because we don’t know any better.  Pacino should get some credit for being willing to lampoon himself in such an over-the-top way.  His performance was a highlight I wasn’t expecting.
 
The visual effects used to put Sandler’s two characters on the screen at the same time are flawless.  There’s never any weird sightlines nor is there a visible border separating the two shots used to put him on the screen twice.  Sandler even hands himself a piece of paper that may have been one of the more difficult shots to get right and it looks perfectly natural.  The only times when there is obvious trickery is when a stunt double is used to perform some physical feat that Sandler wouldn’t be able to do once much less twice.
 
Despite the problems with the story, it is nice when the film resolves with the happy ending we all expect.  It also gives some hope to those who have yet to find love that if Jill can find a person that loves her just the way she is, there’s a chance for us all.  Even with its ham-handed approach, the movie did leave me with a good feeling and aching sides from the laughter.
 
“Jack & Jill” is rated PG for crude and sexual humor, language, comic violence and brief smoking.  Most of the crude humor is of the bathroom variety.  I don’t recall any sexual humor.  If it was there, it was extremely mild.  The violence consists mostly of a fight in a restaurant late in the movie.  There’s also a small amount involving Pacino.  All of it is played for laughs.  Foul language is mild, brief and widely scattered.
 
While I don’t always find Sandler funny, he does occasionally surprise, like 2009’s “Funny People.”  While a much more serious film than “Jack & Jill,” it showcases Sandler as a comic who made me laugh.  Many of Sandler’s more mainstream comedies don’t make me laugh and that’s what I expected when I entered the theatre this time.  I went to the film loaded for bear and came away a PETA advocate, metaphorically speaking.
 
“Jack & Jill” gets four surprised guitars out of five.
 
Two sequels and two indie flicks are on the menu for this week.  Vote for the next movie I see and review.
 
Martha Marcy May Marlene—After escaping from a cult, a young woman is haunted by her experiences there and fears that its vicious leader may be trying to find her.
 
Take Shelter—A loving family man begins having terrifying dreams about the end of the world.  His preparations for the apocalypse put a strain on his marriage and inflame his community.
 
Happy Feet Two—Mumble, the dancing penguin, is back in an all-new animated adventure, and this time he's showing his son a move or two.
 
The Twilight Sage:  Breaking Dawn - Part 1—Bella and Edward must deal with the consequences brought on by a marriage, honeymoon, and the tumultuous birth of a child.
 
Stan’s Choice—Stan sees and reviews any movie currently in theatres.
 
Release dates are subject to change and not all films may be shown in Knoxville, TN.
 
If you have a question or comment, send it to stanthemovieman@att.net.  Follow Stan on Twitter @moviemanstan.