'Jack and Jill': Sandler, Please Stop
Glenn Kenny, Special to MSN Movies
"How long? Oh, Lord, how long?" One can almost hear those words, precisely, in the under-the-breath despair of film critics as they dutifully file into their seats for a screening of a new Adam Sandler film. For whatever ups and downs Sandler has had -- not so much as a film actor per se but as a purveyor of what we'll call "Adam Sandler comedies" -- he continues, along with various cohorts and cronies, to produce. And what he's been producing of late suggest that his quality control, such as it ever was, has gone straight down the toilet. As it were. This year alone, he starred in and produced the very near-abysmal "Just Go With It," produced and did "voice work" on the completely abysmal "Zookeeper," and produced that "Bucky Larson" thing that I didn't see. I was lucky, I'm told. I did read about star Nick Swardson's hissy fit about the bad reviews, though.
In any event, now, as the year wanes, Sandler produces, co-writes and stars in "Jack and Jill," in which he plays a successful ad man as well as his own very socially unformed, not to say grotesque ... oh, OK, let's say grotesque, twin sister. It is typical of "Adam Sandler comedies" in that it wastes an appealing -- or in this case, once-appealing -- actual female lead, in this case Katie Holmes, who not only looks alarmingly wan but turns in a spookily disconnected performance. It is also typical in that it contains a lot of witless bathroom and ethnic humor, including a sequence at a Hispanic barbecue that features a cross-eyed grandmother who keeps getting hit with a piñata stick and passing out and can only be revived by being force-fed jalapeño peppers. No, I am not making this up.
There is a factor in the film that, while not quite what you'd call redeeming, actually gives the film a charge of something resembling genuine comic anarchy, or maybe the sort of film that John Waters might have made had he been dropped on the head a bunch of times when he was a baby. That would be the unlikely-seeming participation in the film of Al Pacino, playing himself or some version of that self. Sandler's male Jack is obliged to pursue the famous actor for a Dunkin' Donuts ad, and Pacino himself further improbably develops a thing for Sandler's Jill. It's all kind of like watching a slow-motion post-modern train wreck -- particularly during those portions wherein the film tries to trade in its complete disdain for pretty much everything in favor of a sentimentality that it can't even be bothered to conceive of faking convincingly. But Pacino himself brings such unseemly bravado to the film's incoherent send-up of both his image and what's left of his talent that his scenes are stomach-churningly compelling, warp-driving into a meta zone in which self-loathing and self-regard are sucked into some kind of black hole, twirled together and pulped into cosmic dust. That said, the biggest laughs that came from the non-roped-off sections of the screening I attended came during the post-chimichanga bathroom sound effects.
And by the way, it's been 15 years that Adam Sandler has been producing what are known as "Adam Sandler comedies." The salad days of Jerry Lewis's solo run lasted a little over a dozen. (And Lewis made way better movies.)
Glenn Kenny is chief film critic for MSN Movies. He was the chief film critic for Premiere magazine from 1998 to 2007. He contributes to various publications and websites, and blogs at http://somecamerunning.typepad.com. He lives in Brooklyn.