Along Came Polly (2004) / Comedy-Romance
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for sexual content, language, crude humor and some drug references
Running Time: 95 min.
Cast: Ben Stiller, Jennifer Aniston, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Debra Messing, Alec Baldwin, Hank Azaria, Bryan Brown
Director: John Hamburg
Screenplay: John Hamburg
I'm always a little curious when it comes to what filmmakers choose as the title of their films. Although some give a good indication of what they're about, there are those movies that lack so much distinction, almost any title will do. Such is the case with Along Came Polly, a film so unoriginal, that the only title that would probably have been accurately descriptive would have been Generic Ben Stiller comedy. Without seeing a frame of film, you know Ben is going to be a likeable loser, unlucky in love, embarrassing himself to win a lady over, and subjected to the grossest mishaps at every step. Those are the goods you expect, and those are the goods that are delivered, but at this point in Ben Stiller's career, it sure would be nice to see him do more than rehash his previous movies again and again.
Stiller plays Reuben Feffer, working for a life insurance agency whose primary job is to address how much risky their clients are to insure. He lives his own life with as little risk as possible, but the unforeseen happens on his honeymoon where his bride (Messing, "Will and Grace") ends up having an affair with a French scuba instructor. His life goes into a tailspin, but a chance meeting with a childhood friend, Polly (Aniston, "Friends"), gives him a new lease on love. The trouble is, Polly is the exact opposite of Reuben, always taking risks and not wanting to become pat and predictable in any way, which makes Reuben very uneasy, as he tries to go along with her plans, even if they involve putting himself in situations he'd rather not be in.
Along Came Polly is written and directed by John Hamburg, who co-wrote the screenplays of two recent Ben Stiller hits, Meet the Parents and Zoolander. While Stiller plays what he has always played, the tone that the comedy most evokes come from the outlandishly gross gags from his breakthrough slapstick flick, There's Something About Mary. The jokes alternate between Stiller going nuts while making weird faces and the grossest potty humor put into a PG-13 movie. If I learned nothing else from the movie, it put a new word into my lexicon -- "shart".
Although there are a few laugh-out-loud moments, the rest of the movie is pretty stale, with exceedingly weak recurring gags, like the blind ferret who continuously runs into objects headfirst. The side-plot involving Bryan Brown (F/X) and his daredevil lifestyle is boring, and unfortunately, a good deal of time is spent exploring it. What's left are the romantic spurts between Reuben and Polly, but even then, they don't really seem like a good fit for each other, perhaps because Stiller and Aniston themselves don't have any chemistry between them.
Along Came Polly is really only for hardcore Ben Stiller fans, and for people who laugh at anything remotely scatological in nature. Too gross to be an effective romance and not nearly witty enough to recommend as a comedy, it's a throwaway rom-com for people who watch them all. Ironically, for a film about taking more risks, it seems that Stiller would be wise to take a few pointers, and try to break himself out of the mold of the exceptional redundancy in his choice of material.
©2004 Vince Leo