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Friday, Jan. 13, 2012

'Jack and Jill'

Sandler is still unfunny, no matter how many parts he plays


Either Adam Sandler was hit by a falling meteor or he was abducted by particularly unpleasant aliens, or both. Whatever happened to him and his mental faculties, the man should not be allowed within a 5-km radius of a Hollywood studio.

Jack and Jill Rating: (1 out of 5)
★
Jack and Jill
Nursery crime: Adam Sandler (left, in drag) reaches horrific new lows in turgid comedy "Jack and Jill" — and Al Pacino (right) comes tumbling after. © 2011 CTMG, All Rights Reserved.

Director: Dennis Dugan
Running time: 91 minutes
Language: English
Opens Jan. 21, 2012
[See Japan Times movie listing]

Sandler may have once been considered a semi-serious actor with a funny streak ("The Wedding Singer" and "Punch-Drunk Love" come to mind), but his latest vehicle, "Jack and Jill," is a potentially career-sinking torpedo of a stinkbomb. In the United States, this was actually Thanksgiving fare (released Nov. 11) and rated PG. The U.S. army would be well advised to use it as a weapon in the fight against terrorism.

Just to make sure I wasn't the only one suffering from acute chest pains and checking my watch every five seconds, only to be horrified to discover that the movie had just begun, I looked around the screening room, and I saw that many of my fellow critics had closed their eyes, shutting out everything and pretending they were somewhere else. Most likely a world where Sandler does not exist, or one where he's decided to ditch making movies altogether to do volunteer work in Africa.

Does Sandler know that worthy people are going jobless and hungry while he's allowed to make what could aptly be described as a colossal insult against humanity — and being paid for it? Shouldn't there be an Occupy Bad Movies? Just thinking that Sandler and director Dennis Dugan (who's another can of worms all by himself) are among the 1 percent does major inflammatory damage to the soul.

One of the gaping open wounds that mar "Jack and Jill" is that Sandler is never off-camera — ever. He plays both title roles, twins Jack and Jill Sadelstein, and though we're given to understand that Jack is a better person (more mature, compassionate, etc.) than the bizarrely obnoxious Jill, they're essentially the same. Sit down with them at a dinner table and within a second you'd want to pack up and take the next bus out of town.

The story never acknowledges the fact that Jack and Jill are equally and painfully annoying. It kicks off with the premise that every year, Los Angeles-based hotshot ad executive Jack must endure the presence of his less privileged sister Jill for an entire Thanksgiving weekend and that it gets worse each time. His saintly wife, Erin (Katie Holmes), acts like it's no trouble at all and coos, "But she's your one and only sister!" when Jack gets all het up over his twin's imminent arrival. And when Jill does show, the delivery is a whole lot worse than the promise. At this point in his life, Sandler isn't what you'd call "cute," but the sight of him in a wig, fake boobs and an array of god-awful dresses ups the need for a sick bag.

The wonder of this vehicle is that Al Pacino (yes, the real one) makes a rather long cameo appearance as himself, and he falls for Jill at a Lakers game. Jill then has a perfect excuse to overstay her welcome at Jack's place: Her brother needs Pacino to star in a TV commercial, and the only way he can swing the deal is through Jill.

Even in this setting, Pacino exudes his own indefatigable aura, which saves the movie from eroding entirely into a lava pit of silliness. And admittedly, he's great fun to watch here. Pacino moves through the story like a man who accidentally came to the wrong party, but was welcomed inside and handed a drink. His body seems constantly on the verge of lunging for the door, and the look on his face (an interesting blend of confusion, resignation and panic) isn't something you'd normally associate with one of Hollywood's cinema legends.

The other wonder is Holmes, aka Mrs. Tom Cruise. In the same year that her husband had starred in and produced "Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol," Holmes had starred in "Jack and Jill" as Jack's wife. This discrepancy in their careers is, to say the least, strange as hell.

It would probably be less disturbing if Holmes had looked as if she were enjoying the whole thing, but there's not one instance where her expression registers happiness. She looks more drained and strained with every scene, as though she is suffering from an undetected flu virus (though some may argue that this is her normal appearance anyway).

Surrounded by Sandler and Sandler-in-drag, Holmes as Erin (despite her chirpy and encouraging dialogue) is a woman on the verge. Erin should have got her hands on a chain saw at an early stage in her marriage. No such luck, however, is in store for the poor woman.


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