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|Along Came Polly
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
dir-scr John Hamburg
with Ben Stiller, Jennifer Aniston, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Debra Messing, Alec Baldwin, Hank Azaria, Michele Lee, Bob Dishy, Bryan Brown, Jsu Garcia, Missi Pyle, Judah Friedlander
release US 16.Jan.04, UK 27.Feb.04
Opposites attract: Aniston and Stiller
From the writer of Meet the Parents, here's another comedy of embarrassment for Ben Stiller (who surely must be getting tired of them). It's good for a few mindless laughs but lacks any truly memorable cinematic scenes or characters--where's Robert DeNiro when you need him?
Reuben (Stiller) is a nice guy insurance expert whose wife (Messing) dumps him on their honeymoon for a scuba instructor (Azaria in zany naked-foreigner mode). Back home, his best friend (Hoffman) encourages him to get back into the dating scene as quickly as possible, so Reuben turns to old school friend Polly (Aniston), who's just back in town. But she's the opposite of Reuben; he has to plan for every conceivable eventuality and assess every risk, while she can't even think beyond this afternoon.
There's never a question about where this film is going, so Hamburg doesn't bother trying to throw us off the scent. This is one of the laziest rom-com scripts in memory--no real conflict at all! The only joy in the film is the way the actors approach each ludicrously silly set piece, and as always Stiller wins us over in the opening scene so we can root for him to sort out his life before the final credits. Aniston and Messing are funny and watchable as variations on their familiar TV personas. Hoffman gets all the big laughs as the over-the-top bozo, although his climactic scene is too much, and as a result not funny at all. We've even got silly against-type roles for Baldwin (Reuben's pushy-comic boss), Brown (his risky-comic client), Lee and Dishy (his loving-comic parents). But a continual stream of funny scenes does not a movie make, and Hamburg neglects the story and characters so badly that it all unravels long before the end, during which he starts cutting away to side elements that were never funny in the first place (such as Polly's blind pet ferret). It passes the time enjoyably, but that's about it.
|Laurie T, Minneapolis: "It was Valentine's Day and we thought this would be a good romantic comedy - fluffy. And it was just that. I will say I thought the movie was actually better than its trailers - but that is about all I can say. Just a nice piece of fluff." (19.Feb.04)
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