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.
Came Polly (2004)
Starring: Ben Stiller, Jennifer Aniston,
and Philip Seymour Hoffman
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.
movie poster for Sandy Lyle's only film is a direct copy of the poster
for The Breakfast Club. (Source: The
Internet Movie Database)