NOTE: To those who are familiar with my way, you'll find I'm not rating this movie. How much I liked it isn't a reflection of how much I'm supposed to like it, where I liked it like one would like a very bad episode of their favourite TV series. Adam Sandler could've played his own Aunt as he remembers her, but he's good at it. The movie, an elaborate Al Pacino joke with the actor himself in the middle. And I liked it for what it was - a Break from my Oscar-viewing frenzy, with a determination to get my opinion out before the ultimate verdict. Please do not let yourself be influenced by what I say. Thanks.
DIRECTED BY DENNIS DUGAN
STARRING: ADAM SANDLER, ADAM SANDLER, KATIE HOLMES, ELODIE TOUGNE, ROHAN CHAND, NICK SWARDSON, TIM MEADOWS, GAD ELMALEH with JOHN McENROE, JOHNNY DEPP, SHAQUILLE O’NEAL, DREW CAREY and AL PACINO
Jill (Adam Sandler) meets Al Pacino at the Lakers’ game. She tells him she’s heard of him, but hasn’t quite watched his movies. She tells him though that she’s heard he’s quite serious. And then she asks him if he’s seen Ryan Seacrest around. Pacino, on his part, can’t even get his name right (as goes the cliché). But he’s excited to know that Jill’s from the Bronx. He buys her a hot-dog on which he writes his number in mustard and ketchup. Jill’s not that excited about calling him for a variety of reasons.
A problem that I’ve had with Pacino is that I’ve seen him in very little comedies. ‘Dog Day Afternoon’ can be counted. ‘Ocean’s Thirteen’, for that reason, was way up there on my performance charts. It’s a role of his I liked more than his ‘Godfather’s and ‘Scarface’s and ‘Devil’s Advocate’s. There’s nothing challenging, nothing really demanding about these roles that could give the actor the comfort of playing someone far from his territory, of escaping into an illusion that he could conveniently create instead of treading the fine line that separates one’s movie-self from his off-screen-self. It’s harder to be interesting when you’re being yourself, but I’ve always believed that that’s the only way to roll. There’s a guilty sort of pleasure in this pastiche called ‘stupid’ than the drawn-out humour in sensibility quite difficult to achieve.
Al Pacino, the actor, and Al Pacino, the fictionalized version, share idiosyncrasies and trivia that ring a bell every once in a while, but what excited me more was the fact that Pacino was actually doing this movie. ‘Jack and Jill’, surprisingly, has a lot of stars in a painted ceiling that never calls itself a sky. There’s Katie Holmes who plays a literal diaper-changer mom. There’s the Sandler usuals in Nick Swardson and David Spade, along with a haul of bigger cameos.
This is something that’s likeable about Sandler (Dennis Dugan, to some extent). They never outdo themselves. They don’t even try. It’s a double-edged weapon. In someone like Matthew Vaughn and the dwindling David Gordon Green, it’s exceptionally annoying. It’s a dog-cat thing. You don’t like your Dog lying around, but for your Cat, it’s sophistication. Same goes. Sandler, in his last five movies (‘Funny People’, through ‘Grown Ups’ and ‘Just Go with it’) has played filthy-rich. I admire that about him. I’ve found it preposterous for an A-List celebrity to play down-to-earth for the sake of a movie. On the one hand, there’s dedication and ability and on the other, there’s a John Lennon fakery, hinging on the illusion that the audience can break from. If they wanted to, that is.
‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ is an illusion that the ‘Ocean’s Trilogy’ never banked on. It’s a Golden stance. Never joke about yourself when in costume. That’s what I didn’t like about ‘Tangled.’ That’s why ‘Enchanted’, for me, failed to enchant in spite of Amy Adams. It doesn’t help your illusion if you’re going to break it. Not everyone can be Steve Martin.
And besides, there’s guilty pleasure in an actor-cameo. It’s like exhibitionism to the voyeur who keeps wanting more. It’s win-win. Like Bruce Willis when he says, “How come the movie made 600 Million Dollars, then?” in ‘Ocean’s Twelve.’ Like Slash when he turns the knob to ‘animate’ on his Amp in the ‘Phineas and Ferb’ movie. Like Johnny Depp in this movie when Jill asks him if he’s from ‘Duran Duran.’ He smiles. I laughed. It was a giant-killing moment for me. High-Five Adam Sandler!
A Funny man doesn’t make a Funny movie just by being in it. Like ‘the Green Hornet,’ for instance. But then, you like the Man, you excuse his movie. You might even have fun watching it. That’s how it’s been for me and every venture of Sandler’s ‘Happy Madison Productions.’ I like Adam Sandler like how a folk-lover would like Kimya Dawson. I think his movies are trash, but I know he doesn’t care. In fact, he even deliberates this thought of mine. It’s like how Ebert calls Nicolas Cage the King of Bad Action movies. Sandler is a comedy-equivalent. He’s painfully adequate and lazy with almost no ambition that you shake your head in disbelief, but when you do it, you do it with a chuckle. This guy’s impossible, but you know you like him. He knows you like him. It’s better to drop all pretence.