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Along Came Polly
2004 - PG-13 - 90 Mins.
Director: John Hamburg
Producer: Danny DeVito, Michael Shamberg, Stacey Sher
Written By: John Hamburg
Starring: Ben Stiller, Jennifer Aniston, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Debra Messing, Alec Baldwin, Hank Azaria, Bryan Brown
Review by: Carl Langley
   

The other Jen and Ben
Based on the history of the month of January, Along Came Polly, the next of endless romantic comedies dumped in the first quarter of the year, comes along as passable and redeemable. Yes, I said redeemable. The sparse laughs that it contains are sufficient and uproarious and it cashes in for the stillborn courtship it promises to parcel. Sadly enough, the film strives for both comedy and romance, but we are only fed a spoonful of laughs with no warm hearts are to be found.

Rueben Feffer (Ben Stiller) is a risk assessment analyst (where do they get these jobs?), recently married to the perfect girl, Lisa Kramer (Debra Messing of Will and Grace fame), and spending his honeymoon on the beaches of an ideal tropical island. From the previews, we all know that Lisa is caught fornicating with the scuba instructor (Hank Azaria sporting a way over-the-top accent) on the second day. Fatefully, Rueben returns home to the city and continues to go to work for his callow boss (Alec Baldwin).

When he tags along with his best friend Sandy (Philip Seymour Hoffman) to an art exhibit, he meets a junior high acquaintance, Polly Prince (Jennifer Aniston). Coming off the heart-wrenching honeymoon, Rueben is looking to recuperate. He asks Polly out on a date, unaware of the total opposite personality she beholds. He is skeptical of risky adventures, ranging from walking over the subway grate to eating the free nuts at the local bar. She is free spirited and never enjoys planning out what comes next. I suppose that these two are so ill-matched that that opposites attract, or something like that.

Simply put, this film does not work and there is more than one explanation for this miscalculation. The romance is inconsequential and implausible. Considering romance is the vital key in this type of genre, the film looses its fizz and becomes flat. Not at one point in the entire film was the relationship between Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston acceptable, let alone believable. The chemistry is not there. Call it hunch, but the odds that a woman would second date a man who uses her house bathroom to take the nastiest crap ever, use the floral hand towel embroidered by her late grandmother to wipe himself, and unclog the toilet he has just jammed with the $150 luffa she just purchased is very slim. Having IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) does not help his chances either.

Astonishingly, this is where the film becomes even more sour, stooping so low to bring in the heavily wanted poop and toilet jokes. It only swirls the movie down the bowl along with the hand towel and I imagine parts of the luffa. The high-pitched squeaky farts and diarrhea in this designated film brings out a bizarre uncomfortableness and is often embarrassing to watch. The film wants so badly to lean on its romantic shoulder and ends up turning to its puerile jokes; pity undeservingly goes out to the writers. Leave these gags for Mel Brooks and the Farrelly brothers.

The main attractions are the least entertaining. Ben Stiller is fine tuned into playing the shy, non-cynical characters we are supposed to feel sympathy for and connect with. My sympathy has almost run dry. Jennifer Aniston plays her second straight love interest role after turning in a powerful performance in The Good Girl. She is submitting back to her typecast roles and even though she has a controlling screen presence, her caricatures will too wear thin.

Along Came Polly derives its juice from the performances of its supporting characters - kudos to Philip Seymour Hoffman, Alec Baldwin, and Bryan Brown for sticking out in an ill-fated, conventional romantic comedy. The Hoffman character is downright vulgarly hilarious, and even better, up until the end, most of his shticks are unexpected. He plays one of those former child stars straight out of this past year’s Dickie Roberts movie. Stuck up on his past and irrevocable fame, Hoffman introduces us to the word “sharted” – the only poop joke to muster a chuckle – and sets us off on a riot with his basketball skills.

John Hamburg is the director, who wrote the screenplay for Meet the Parents and Zoolander, two comedies that relied on the discomfort and irrational. Here he blends his irrationality with enchantment and the result leaves a sour taste in your mouth. Hamburg is still moist behind the ears in the romantic department. I found myself not caring whether the couple ended up together and was more interested in watching Hoffman scream “Let it rain!” while playing basketball or watching Rodolfo, the blind pet ferret of Polly’s, run into walls and trash cans.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable. Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable. Below Average.  Mediocre. Has substantial flaws, but is watchable.
  2.5 out of 5 stars

 
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