Monday, November 14, 2011

Jack and Jill

JACK AND JILL (Dennis Dugan, 2011)

In the comedy JACK AND JILL Adam Sandler pulls double duty starring as Los Angeles advertising executive Jack and his insecure, Bronx-dwelling twin sister Jill.  Even before Jill’s plane has landed in California for her Thanksgiving visit, Jack is counting the hours until she is on a return flight to New York.  He loves his sister, but she gets on his nerves.

To Jack’s exasperation, Jill decides to extend her stay with his family through Hanukkah.  Desperate to get her out of the house and back to the East Coast, Jack figures that the best way to hasten her departure is to find a boyfriend for his sad, single sister.  Luckily and bewilderingly, Al Pacino is smitten with Jill.  This appears to be a coup for Jack, as he might have found a boyfriend for Jill and now has the chance to persuade the actor to star in his pitch for a Dunkin’ Donuts commercial.  Jill, though, is less than impressed with Pacino’s fame, fortune, and affection.  

I’ve rarely liked Sandler’s films, especially when he’s working with someone from his stable of directors.  His laziness and worst impulses are left unchecked, allowing the films to disintegrate into formless and laughless vehicles for product placement, ego stroking, and paid vacation.  This year’s Sandler-starring, Dennis Dugan-directed JUST GO WITH IT is a shoo-in for my worst of 2011 list.  With JACK AND JILL bringing the star and director together again, everything was aligned for me to hate it as well. Strangely, I don’t.

JACK AND JILL certainly suffers from the problems that plague his other movies. Dugan’s filmmaking demonstrates a basic level of formal competence, which is an improvement in this instance.  The corporate contributors are so nakedly integrated that Sandler might as well just pause to show commercials at the act breaks.  At this point it’d be less insulting.  (That said, JACK AND JILL basically does this near the end.)  The immense neediness Sandler’s characters possess gets shifted to him in Jill’s clothes rather than as “himself”, which at least makes it less alienating.  Still, the underlying message remains unconcealed: love me for and in spite of all of these things I hate about myself.  

Yet JACK AND JILL yielded more laughs from me than any of his films have in the last seven years.  Is Pacino’s utterly weird performance captivating because he’s debasing himself or giving it his all?  Maybe I’ve finally been worn down, but Jill’s grotesque characterization goes in one end as deeply unfunny and comes out the other as relatively amusing and, dare I say it, charming.  Her enthusiastic requests for twin time with Jack and general cluelessness let Sandler play up the lowbrow comedy he favors without being as mean or angry as he can be.

The charge is leveled at Jack that he’s bitter and cynical, which seems like a pointed self-critique for Sandler to acknowledge.  Like the actor’s least ambitious films, JACK AND JILL’s lack of energy disguises contempt, but here he’s working through his issues in a more compelling way than usual.

Grade:  C

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