|With Ben Stiller's searing lack of comedic talent, one must question the intelligence of filmmakers who would allow him further access to feature film scripts that would eventually be forced in innocent movie-goers in the dead of January's winter. It is easy to label a film "lackluster" whose release date occurs in January (excepting Oscar bait which traditionally gets a limited release in December and a wider showing in January), but with Stiller's 2003 release, Duplex failing to charm audiences or critics, it's a wonder why he hasn't given up the game.|
His performance as an annoying and whiney child-man in The Royal Tenenbaums was appropriate probably because of the character's resemblance to his real-life temperament, but beyond that performance, Stiller has played the same character in every single film in which he has ever appeared. And this is particularly ironic when considering the poorly constructed Along Came Polly, as Stiller's love interest in the film is played by Jennifer Aniston, another actor who plays the same character in nearly every film (she simply constructs a mild variation of "Rachel," her character on "Friends," for each performance).
But the nail in this film's coffin is that Aniston and Stiller have absolutely zero romantic chemistry with one another. Their lack of appreciative character development notwithstanding, the supporting cast in the film will probably garner more sympathy from the audience than the actors in the two lead roles. Although a romantic comedy whose main element is a series of "gross-out" jokes is supposed to make you cringe and snort at various characters' strange antics, there still remains the requirement of "romance" in the mix, and it seems that Along Came Polly is seriously deficient in this area.
Even a dead-pan performance from the usually droll Philip Seymour Hoffman cannot make this film's ninety minutes seem quite entertaining enough for the cost of a ticket. And it's a shame to see the talented Hank Azaria so under-used. But as long as the lead performances were comical and the romance believable, the confining script might have been less noticeable. But as screenwriter and director John Hamburg dumps gallons of stinky toilet humor and dumb physical comedy on his character, he neglects furthering the audience's interest by exploring the character. It's quite acceptable to create a film filled with crude humor and market it toward addled teenaged boys, but it's quite another to pass off the mess as a romantic comedy.
The trailer for the film shows an equal amount of romance and humor, though the fart jokes really do take precedence in the film. Which makes the failure of most of the jokes to hit a comedic high note all the more apparent since the romance requirement is so weak. Though there are a few jokes that will probably cause a great portion of the audience to chuckle, these precious moments are few and far between. But potential viewers should note that were somebody to edit out the dull jokes to allow the funny scenes to proceed uninterrupted by lameness, the film would probably only run for about ten minutes.
But perhaps weak dialogue, predictable scenarios, and unbelievable romance are elements that Hamburg actually wanted in his film? In preparing the movie for a mass audience, the filmmakers might have thought the broadest approach possible the best route to take. Which can make for a successful film in certain instances (witness Old School, a film that I wasn't particularly fond of, but that garnered a thumbs up from a surprisingly varied segment of the population). But the film doesn't really go deep enough into lamebrain humor to really earn the title of Entertaining Toilet Claptrap.
In approaching the sequel to this film, Hamburg should definitely dump the main characters and opt for a romance concerning Hoffman's character and Azaria's character. Perhaps it should be a threesome with Alec Baldwin's character in the mix. Ben Stiller has simply over-stayed his welcome as the perpetual "Clueless Doofus" and Jennifer Aniston needs to leave her "Friends" character behind for good. This film is unable to claim the ability to "just entertain" as the comedy isn't comedic and the lead actors can't pick up the slack of the weakly designed script and unimpressive dialogue.
Review by Kelsey Wyatt.