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Monday, November 14th, 2011

I Watched Jack and Jill So You Don't Have To

Over the weekend, I joined legions of idiotic Americans with the absolute worst taste in movies to go see Adam Sandler's latest "movie," Jack and Jill. As I stuffed my face with popcorn, surrounded by slobbering hyperactive children and foul-smelling adults who appeared to be shut-ins who only venture out once a year to catch the latest Sandler flick, I came to two conclusions: 1) I completely agree with every critic that has raked this disaster over the coals. You don't need me to tell you how bad this movie is. It's literally unwatchable, as in there were moments where I had to turn my head away and stop watching because it was so bad. And 2) I kept experiencing an eerie sensation that what I was watching wasn't real.

In one scene, Johnny Depp wears a Justin Bieber shirt at a Lakers game and sits next to Al Pacino, who is dressed like a rabbi. Shaquille O'Neal licks a ham while wearing a long-haired wig. Pacino, playing Don Quixote, attacks a ceiling fan with a spear at a Morton's Steakhouse. Regis Philbin exclaims that he has diarrhea. Norm Macdonald plays a character named Funbucket. Whenever Jill (Sandler in drag) gets upset, she runs into the woods (in the middle of Los Angeles), where Otto, the homeless caddy from Happy Gilmore, lives. A parakeet drinks Jack Daniels.

All of these things happen without explanation, which is perfectly acceptable in a three-minute comedy sketch, but is jarringly off-putting in a 90-minute movie. Because of this, Jack and Jill answers the question: What would happen if somebody took a fake comedy trailer, like Bowfinger's Fake Purse Ninjas, Simple Jack from Tropic Thunder, or any one of Tracy Jordan's movies from 30 Rock, and extended them to feature length?

Of course, there wasn't a fake trailer that Jack and Jill is based on, and even if there was, Sandler wouldn't have been the first person to try and extend a three-minute idea into a full-length movie (Robert Rodriguez pulled off that feat with 2010's Machete). But Jack and Jill, critics be damned, is the perfect fake movie. Like a good trailer, it makes zero narrative sense. For about two minutes I tried to make sense out of it, but that was pointless. (Jack and Jill are supposed to be identical twins, but you can't have identical twins with separate sexes! And what sane parents would name their children Jack and Jill?) Eventually, I just gave into the insane sketch logic of the movie, and said, "None of this makes any sense," and tried to enjoy myself.

It's not on the same level of postmodern absurdity as Tom Green's Freddy Got Fingered, but it's not far off. In a perfect world, Tracy Morgan would make Honky Grandma Be Trippin' after 30 Rock ends, but until that day comes (and it probably won't), Jack and Jill will serve as the best example of what happens when a group of comedians get together and make a movie based off a poster.

Not surprisingly, Sandler's scenes as Jill got the biggest laughs, while his performance as Jack fell completely flat. Sandler's not the greatest straight man, and the lousy editing made it even more obvious when he had to play the straight man to himself. Which brings up another important question that I don't have an answer to: Why do successful comedians feel compelled to play multiple roles in their movies? Nine times out of ten, one comedian playing multiple roles results in a disastrous movie. Peter Sellers as Clare Quilty and Dr. Zempf in Stanley Kubrick's Lolita? Hilarious and brilliant. Eddie Murphy starring in multiple roles in anything other than Coming to America? Not so much. Did Sandler tell himself, "That was genius when Mike Myers played Dr. Evil AND Fat Bastard in the same movie. I gotta try that"? Can anyone defend comedies where an actor plays multiple roles that wouldn't have been served better with another actor? Please speak up in the comment section.

Ultimately, a movie like Jack and Jill would have completely failed if you had someone else play Jill. And if your movie is that reliant on a gimmick, it probably would have been wiser make it as a Funny or Die! video and not charge me $12 for it.

Alex Scordelis is a writer for Thunder Gulch, a sketch team at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. He also writes about music for Paper Magazine.

  • doggans

    //Can anyone defend comedies where an actor plays multiple roles that wouldn't have been served better with another actor?//

    Sketch troupe movies like KITH: Brain Candy or the Python flicks can be an exception, but there's a huge difference between an ensemble all taking on multiple roles, and one comedy star refusing to let other actors have opportunities for laughs in their misguided vanity project.

  • iamjustryingtolive

    "That was genius when Mike Myers played Dr. Evil AND Fat Bastard in the same movie." Um this undercuts ur point because Mike Myers did play Austin Powers and Dr. Evil (and Fat Bastard) in the same movie brilliantly (#2). So that's one example to counter your pt. Also, lets not pretend that Jack and Jill would be any good if an actress had played the part. I wish i could come up w more examples but im coming up blank.

  • Joshua Kurp

    "Can anyone defend comedies where an actor plays multiple roles that wouldn't have been served better with another actor?"

    What about Peter Sellers in Dr. Strangelove? Or Alec Guinness in Kind Hearts and Coronets? Or everyone in Monty Python and the Holy Grail? Or Eddie Murphy in The Nutty Professor? Or Jack Black in The Fatties: Fart Two?

    Well, maybe not that last one, but there are a bunch, even if Mike Meyers and Adam Sandler are ruining the concept.

  • http://twitter.com/joshung Joshua Ungerleider

    I need to agree with iamjustryingtolive, Myers may have overdone the "I'll play multiple parts" thing in the Austin Powers sequels, but he did do it well in the first one.

    Maybe comedians look at multiple roles like the winning the lottery. The odds aren't good, but when you hit (like Murphy in Coming to America) you're basically set for life.

  • gascoin

    "Can anyone defend comedies where an actor plays multiple roles that wouldn't have been served better with another actor?"

    Nicolas Cage gave two amazing performances as twin screenwriters in the dark comedy Adaptation. It saved his reputation, proved he could still pull off serious roles.

    Eddie Murphy was solid as the Ramsey brothers in Bowfinger. The film got good reviews and gave Murphy and Martin a hit.

    also Bill Bailey in Hot Fuzz as two sergeants who couldn't be more different from each other. It made for a great twist