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Along Came Polly (2004)
Rated PG13

Starring: Ben Stiller, Jennifer Aniston, and Philip Seymour Hoffman

Rating:
**
out of
*****

It's early in the year and that means mainstream theaters become a wasteland of bad comedies, B-grade action movies and the occasional Z-grade horror film. Along Came Polly, when judged from the trailer, looked to provide some welcome relief from the normal scheme of things by teaming Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston in a romantic comedy written by John Hamburg (Meet the Parents). Unfortunately, this pairing looks better on paper than what it delivers in reality.

Reuben (Ben Stiller) and his new bride, Lisa (Debra Messing), have traveled to the Bahamas for their honeymoon. Reuben, who works as a risk assessment analyst for an insurance firm, decides against going scuba diving with Lisa one day. Lisa ends up going alone and shagging the scuba instructor (Hank Azaria) afterwards. Reuben discovers them in bed together and the marriage is off.

Dejected, Reuben comes home to New York. His friend Sandy (Philip Seymour Hoffman) takes him to a party where he meets old schoolmate Polly (Jennifer Aniston). Polly is exactly the opposite of Reuben. She's spontaneous, outgoing and relatively poor. Of course, in romantic comedy land, this means they're perfect for each other. They just have to go through the motions to find that out. The twist here is that since Reuben is a risk assessment analyst, he finds himself comparing the relatively safe Lisa with the risky Polly and becomes conflicted about which he should choose.

I really wanted to enjoy this movie. Ben Stiller can be hilarious with the right material. Jennifer Aniston has been choosing decent roles lately and can be much better than she is here. The script just doesn't seem interested in trying anything truly funny. It all too often goes for a fart joke or a lame double entendre than really working for anything more than a chuckle. Also, a lot of humor is telegraphed. For example, Reuben knows he has irritable bowel syndrome. He announces it several times, in fact. Can you guess whether this will lead to an embarrassing moment later? Of course it will.

There's also the question of chemistry between Polly and Reuben. What do they really have in common? Not much. Their relationship seems like a rebound pairing than anything with any long-term potential.

There are some highlights however. Bryan Brown is somewhat funny as an Australian "adrenaline junkie" who's trying to get a life insurance policy with Reuben's firm. Alec Baldwin, fresh from his Academy Award-nominated performance in The Cooler, delivers a humorous speech at Reuben's wedding. Philip Seymour Hoffman, who always looks out of it, seems even more so than usual and it fits his former child star character perfectly.

Strangely, none of the memorable bits come from Stiller or Aniston and that's not a good thing when they're the top-billed stars. Chalk this one up as bargain matinee fodder only.

Trivia: The movie poster for Sandy Lyle's only film is a direct copy of the poster for The Breakfast Club. (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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