Saturday, December 3, 2011

Jack and Jill ★★ ★ ½

Why when Sandler falls down, he keeps his crown

Let us first address the elephant in the room.  Jack and Jill (Dennis Dugan, 2011), has universally not received good reviews.  Adam Sandler movies do not impress film critics.  Yet, his movies are graced with cameos and starring roles from some of the best actors in the business.  Drew Barrymore, Christopher Walken, Donald Sutherland, Don Cheedle, Leslie Mann, Eric Bana, and of course, Jack Nicholson are some of the respected thespians with credits in his films.

In his latest offering, Jack and Jill, Sandler’s taken a step beyond, casting Oscar© winner Al Pacino as himself.  Pacino, though, doesn’t play the serious tough guy this time; instead he is a Pacino losing-his-marbles who is obsessed with Jill. He first arrives in the film alongside a cameo appearance by the cool man, himself, Johnny Depp and spends the rest of the film lampooning himself.

So, if Sandler’s movies are as bad as his critics claim, why then do all these box office actors deign to appear in his critically panned movies?  The answer I believe is simple; they think his material is funny. They get his humour, just like most of the audiences that happily pay to see his movies, get his humour.

When I go to see an Adam Sandler movie I’m not expecting to see a thought provoking piece nor find myself changed in any way.  I’m not even expecting to remember the plot a year later. Although strangely enough I can remember most of his film’s plots, whereas ask me about some of the superhero ones and you will draw a blank stare.

What I am expecting, when the poster says starring Adam Sandler, are people falling over a lot and being whacked by objects, Adam’s character the brunt of some kind of one-joke running gag, and co-stars that appear to be having a lot of fun being downright silly.

And in varying degrees every time I see a Sandler movie, I get exactly what I expect and exactly what I want—a silly ninety minutes of slapstick, and toilet humour laughter.  Now what then is there to complain about when a movie delivers exactly what it promises?

The latest addition to the Sandler stable is ‘Jack and Jill’, in which he plays both lead roles—seamlessly stitched together I might add.  Prepare to find yourself forgetting that it is actually him in the role of Jill.

Jack has a great life, with his wife Erin (Katie Holmes) and their two children.  Every year his twin sister Jill, who is the relative from hell, invades his life.  She arrives to stay Thanksgiving weekend and comes with a long list of activities she wants to enjoy during the visit.

Jill, through a twist of fate meets Al Pacino, who is instantly attracted to her, pursuing her relentlessly in some very funny scenes.  Sadly, for Pacino, his love is unrequited. However, in order for Jack’s plan—of having Pacino star in one of his commercials—to succeed, he needs to convince Jill to stay longer than the planned weekend and somehow change her mind about Pacino.  The rest of the plot is pure Sandler formulae, where in the end Jack realises family is what matters.

My kids love Adam Sandler movies.  Sitting next to them at the Jack and Jill screening, listening to their enthusiastic laughter as Sandler’s Jill punches a guy through a door, wreaks havoc in a swimming pool with a jet ski and destroys Pacino’s Oscar with a bat and ball, it occurred to me that there are not many comedies I can see with my kids.  There is no swearing.  There is no sex and the violence is Punch and Judy style, without a drop of blood.  It is just slapstick and gags, pure and simple.

As a kid, I loved Saturday afternoon movies with the Three Stooges, and Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin—Jerry Lewis at one stage was my favourite actor. I suspect in their day they also copped a fair bit of criticism for their mindless slapstick humour.  Yet, I adored them and they are a fond part of my childhood memories.

I am probably going against the tide of critics who hate Adam Sandler films, when I suggest that Sandler is the Jerry Lewis of our day.  He is funny and he is good at what he does, which is making audiences laugh.

As one friend said of his movies, ‘You need to check your brain at the theatre door.’  And you know what, at the screening I attended there must have been a very full brain check cloakroom, because there was a heck of a lot of laughter filling the theatre.  Laughter is what Sandler aims for and laughter is what he delivers.  How can you rate that badly?