Reviewed by: Chris Monroe
|Featuring||Ben Stiller, Jennifer Aniston, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Alec Baldwin, Debra Messing|
|Producer||Jane Bartelme, Daniel S. Levine, Danny DeVito|
Irony rests in the fact that while “Along Came Polly” proudly purports the idea that the “safe” choice isn’t really the best choice, the run of the mill making of this film does nothing but choose what is “safe” with jokes, characters, and storylines that are all very commonplace. Clearly, the medium holds none of the message and works against itself in providing any effectiveness.
This movie presents Ben Stiller (“Meet the Parents”, “Royal Tenenbaums”) as Reuben Feffer, a risk assessment analyst for an insurance company. He is a guy that “plans his life in order to avoid danger,” and, as in many other comedic Stiller roles, takes life way too seriously. Stiller plays this comedy well, but it feels like he is simply being reused as a character he has been successful at playing in the past.
After his marriage to Lisa Kramer (Debra Messing of “Will and Grace”) to kick off this flick, Reuben walks in on his brand new wife having sex with a scuba instructor (Hank Azaria) on their honeymoon. It was difficult to believe Reuben would let his wife go off alone with “Claude”—who first introduces himself to them completely naked—but because of the conventionality of the script we are forced to buy it.
Furthermore, only two weeks after this devastating incident, Reuben is already pursuing a new romantic relationship with Polly Prince (Jennifer Aniston), which builds to some kind of climactic love speech we’ve already seen in the trailer. Polly, of course, is supposed to be the complete opposite of risk-assessment-Reuben as the free-spirited, bohemian girl who likes spicy “ethnic foods” and salsa dancing. How hackneyed. The whole story comes across very glib.
Besides the brief sex scene with Lisa and Claude in the beginning, there is another one with Reuben and Polly where we hear Reuben’s internal monologue about his performance in bed. It’s distasteful. There is no nudity in this scene, but during the scenes at the salsa club, there are some moments of provocative dancing. (The nudity that does exist in the film is in the two incidents where we see the backsides of Claude and Rueben.)
The foul language is minor with Reuben’s boss, Stan Indursky (Alec Baldwin), using most of the profanities, including taking the Lord’s name in vain. Indursky is a no-nonsense, obnoxious guy who is nonchalant about his relationship with his mistress. One positive point here is that he is not presented at all as a likeable character, but in the end his actions result in being inconsequential.
One attempt at humor involves Polly showing Reuben a children’s book she has been writing entitled “Boy With a Nub For an Arm” complete with pictures. Reuben underplays how he thinks it might be a little disturbing for children, and when we see one of the actual pictures, it’s obvious they would be. The joke did not seem even remotely realistic.
Another supposed funny situation is Reuben reacting to the spicy “ethnic foods” he eats and finding himself without toilet paper while in Polly’s bathroom. Haven’t we seen this before? More rehashed jokes.
The strength of this film is supposed to lie in the clash between Reuben and Polly’s different personalities, but seems to force its meaning on us with unconvincing arguments. Reuben explains to Polly that he doesn’t want to try base jumping (jumping from the top of a building, for example, with a parachute). Polly asks him if he’s ever done it, to which Reuben says no. Polly pathetically retorts, “Then how do you know what it’s like?” as if she making some poignant remark. Hardly.
This movie is too aware of itself. It is too aware that it is trying to be funny. It is too aware that it is trying to be meaningful. It is too aware that it is trying to be dramatic. But at the same time it is totally unaware that it is none of these things.
The best part of the entire film is the work done by Philip Seymour Hoffman who plays a washed up child actor pursuing his acting career playing Judas in a community theater production of “Jesus Christ Superstar”. He plays his character, Sandy, thoroughly with humor and consistency, portraying a slob that we love to loathe. The funniest moment is when he refers to himself as “white chocolate” as he throws up yet another brick during a two-on-two basketball game.
If you choose to practice the philosophy this movie advocates, then avoid the “safe” choice by not going to see it. It would behoove anyone to take a risk and instead go to an art museum or read a good book.
(The whole star this film did earn is solely dedicated to the work done by Philip Seymour Hoffman)