At this point, I think Adam Sandler has a pretty good idea of what he’s going to be doing for the rest of his life, and he’s made peace with it. He makes a certain kind of film, running a few variations to keep it slightly different each time out, and they make a certain kind of money. His friends all stay employed, nobody challenges him, and he’s happy.
Good for him.
The people around Adam Sandler all seem to love him. I can’t recall ever hearing a bad word from anyone in Los Angeles who works for or with him. Todd Garner, who produces many of the films that Sandler’s part of these days including this one, loves him, and I know Todd well enough to know that he does not pretend about who he does or doesn’t like. Judd Apatow and Robert Smigel, two very funny men I have boundless respect for, think of Sandler as a dear friend and a comedic peer. Sandler creates constant work for a core group of people, and they owe their livelihoods to him, something which must be a strange relationship to have with your friends, but which he seems to wear well. They all seem to share his sensibilities enough that the films represent a pretty consistent example of comic voice bent to different scenarios and characters, but always within a certain range.
This is one of the gross Adam Sandler comedies, one of the ones where there’s almost nothing normal or human about it, where he plays a character so outsized that your reaction to the character will determine your entire reaction to the film. Do you think The Waterboy is funny? Then you’ll like “The Waterboy.” Think Happy Gilmore is funny? I’ll bet “Happy Gilmore” delights you. Same with Billy Madison and “Billy Madison” or Nicky and “Little Nicky.” He sometimes pushes a character so far that you either laugh and enjoy it or recoil and never connect.
Jill is one such character, and I’m afraid I never laughed at her. Not once in the entire running time of “Jack and Jill,” which opens this week. That is not a good thing. When your movie is called “Jack and Jill,” it’s fair to assume that a good half of the film’s appeal rests on the character named Jill. The movie’s premise is barely a premise. Jack (Sandler) and Jill (also Sandler) are twins, born a few minutes apart, and he hates spending time with her. She comes to his house for the holidays, and she drives him crazy, and just in time for the film to end, he learns a valuable lesson about how to love. It is amazing, and probably a sign of my ability to sublimate rage on an epic scale, that I am still in love with movies in general and this industry in specific while still understanding that someone got paid to come up with that as a movie.
“Adam Sandler is twins, and one of them is a big asshole!”
“Excellent. Here’s a huge check. See you at lunch.”
The “tension” in the film has to do with Sandler landing a big Dunkin’ Donuts account for his wildly successful advertising company. It’s genuinely terrifying to think that something might happen that might prevent at least one of Sandler’s characters from living in a giant mansion. Oh, wait, no it’s not. His idea of “the everyman” at this point is a wildly rich white guy living in opulence, and the idea that we’re supposed to buy into some sort of anxiety about whether or not he lands one more big account — I don’t buy the “losing this account ruins our whole business” conceit for a second — is just gross. I actively dislike the Jack character in the movie because even if his sister is a big moosey mess in the film, and even if she’s embarrassing and wrong a lot of the time and physically unpleasant, he’s still just a big giant dick. At no point in the film is he made to feel like a really fun nice guy whose one blind spot is his own sister. Nope. Instead, Sandler’s managed to make both of the siblings unpleasant to be around, leaving the burden for “sympathetic normal person” to be shouldered by Katie Holmes, whose whole job is to either smile approvingly or cluck disapprovingly after everything Jack does, as if he’s so morally enfeebled that he needs the running real-time feedback just to keep him from doing anything too wrong.
And Al Pacino… good god, Al Pacino. This is now the official low point of a great career, a moment so relentlessly weird and ill-considered that I’m wondering if someone should be given power of attorney over him to prevent him from further ruining his good name. Sandler’s been told that Dunkin’ Donuts wants Al Pacino for a TV commercial, and he has to deliver him. No two ways about it. And Al Pacino, at a Lakers game, meets the horrific and disturbing Jill and falls in love. He becomes Pepe Le Pew for the rest of the movie, pursuing her in increasingly strange ways, leading to a scene where Jack, desperate to get Pacino to do the ad, dresses as his sister and goes for a romantic evening with Pacino. Picture “Tootsie” if everyone in the cast had a head injury. That’s “Jack and Jill.”
A cartoon comparison seems apt here. Like many of Sandler’s films, it’s cartoon logic that is in play in this film. Nothing should be taken too seriously. And done properly, I like humor that is just outrageous and weird and builds its own world. Dennis Dugan’s movies all look the same and feel the same, and none of them ever feel particularly well thought-out. I found certain elements here to be more disturbing than normal for a Sandler film, like the characters played by Eugenio Derbez. If this movie makes a better than average showing at the box-office this weekend, do not underestimate the power of Derbez, a Mexican star whose popularity is gigantic in the Latin American community. He’s the guy who does the voice of Donkey for the “Shrek” films, and he’s had several major hit shows. He plays Felipe, Jack’s gardner, as well as Filipe’s grandmother in a sequence I like to call “a Hispanic Tyler Perry film,” and his characters are both about as broad and unsubtle in conception and execution as anything in any Sandler film. That’s saying something. I find the Derbez characters off-putting, and I think it’s sort of upsetting that this is what this guy has to do if he wants to work in studio movies in America.
Even by the already low standards of the typical Adam Sandler film these days, “Jack and Jill” is awful. It was a real chore to sit through, and oddly, the very beginning and the very ending are the only two parts of the film that I enjoyed, and they are just montages of real-life twins being interviewed about being twins. These real people interacting with one another and talking about their relationships, and they’re charming and funny and interesting, and not one moment of the movie that’s sandwiched between those two sequences lives up to the real stuff. Unless you are a hardcore Sandler fan, convinced that everything he does is amazing, I’d suggest sitting this one out. Even as a curiosity piece, it is worthless and almost intolerable to sit through.
The only reason I’m giving it a D – instead of an F is because the twin photography is very nice. On that one purely technical note, they get it right. Everything else? I shudder to even consider it.
“Jack and Jill” opens in theaters everywhere tomorrow.