by Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
“Jack and Jill went through the mill,
In hopes of ever after.
But the jokes fell down all over town,
In a sad, vain search for laughter.”
Normally I would apologize for such a strained nursery-rhyme movie review, but Jack and Jill deserves worse.
Adam Sandler, who also produced (which should tip you off immediately to the probable level of quality) stars as twins, a brother and a sister, in this PG-rated gimmick comedy.
Sandler plays advertising executive Jack Sadelstein, whose abrasive, passive-aggressive twin sister Jill, also played by Sandler in drag, turns up at his suburban Los Angeles home for Thanksgiving as the kickoff to her annual holiday visit, and then refuses to leave.
Meanwhile, Jack struggles in his campaign to talk Al Pacino — who, in one of the goofiest, most surprising, and distended cameo appearances (actually, it turns out to be a full-fledged supporting turn) in movie history, plays an alternate-reality version of himself — into appearing in a new ad campaign.
The supporting cast also has a few faces we’re not all that surprised to see, such as an underemployed Katie Holmes as Jack’s wife; Sandler cronies David Spade, Nick Swardson, Tim Meadows, Allen Covert, Norm McDonald, and Dana Carvey; and countless cameoing celebs, including John McEnroe, Shaquille O’Neal, Drew Carey, Regis Philbin, and Johnny Depp.
So it’s crowded. Big deal. We get it: Sandler has friends.
Jack and Jill has two things going for it: one, state-of-the-art special effects that allow Sandler as two different characters to play scenes opposite himself with astonishing, seamless interactivity. And, two, the bizarre spectacle of a slumming Al Pacino being a good sport and trying not to humiliate himself.
It’s not that Pacino’s really funny here (if you want legitimately funny Pacino, watch Dick Tracy) — it’s just that he’s a comedic improvement over everything and everyone around him.
So there is an admitted level of morbid curiosity that Jack and Jill addresses. In every other way, however — the acting, the dialogue, the pacing, the futile stabs at pathos, the bodily-function humor, the shameless product placement — it’s downright dreadful.
Director Dennis Dugan, who has directed Sandler on many an occasion (I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, Big Daddy, Happy Gilmore), lives down to the standards of his recent collaborations with him (Just Go With It, Grown Ups) in yet another slapped-together comedy made by folks who do not feel that production values actually matter.
The problem with so many of the recent turkeys turned out by Sandler’s production company (whether they’ve suucceeded at the box office or not) is not that they’re lowest-common-denominator entertainments. It’s that they’re so halfhearted, so lazily produced, so undeveloped, so dashed-off, so sloppy.
It’s not that they’re designed to delight an undiscriminating audience; it’s that they’re based on the premise that they’ll delight that audience NO MATTER WHAT. In other words, that anything will do. And these movies are most assuredly anything.
Which certainly includes Jack and Jill. Sandler, who has done respectable work in others’ films (Funny People, Punch-Drunk Love, Spanglish, Reign Over Me), doesn’t even seem to try in his own vehicles. Here he is so far over the top as the whiny and needy sister, it’s as if he was still auditioning to do broad sketch comedy on “Saturday Night Live.”
Consequently, the film itself is at least as annoying as his Jill.
As for the script by Steve Koren, Robert Smigel, and Ben Zook… well, calling it witty would be only half right. It’s exactly as flatulent as its highlight jokes.
So we’ll drop in on 1 star out of 4 for the feckless family comedy, Jack and Jill. Splitting the Adam results in twice the Sandler and half the fun.