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With: Adam Sandler, Katie Holmes, Al Pacino, Elodie Tougne, Rohan Chand, Eugenio Derbez, David Spade, Tim Meadows, Nick Swardson, Allen Covert, Norm MacDonald, Dana Carvey, Rob Schneider
Written by: Steve Koren, based on a story by Ben Zook
Directed by: Dennis Dugan
MPAA Rating: PG for crude and sexual humor, language, comic violence and brief smoking
Running Time: 91
Date: 11/11/2011

Jack and Jill (2011)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Blank Pair

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Adam Sandler fascinates and frustrates me. He could be, arguably, the biggest movie star in the world right now; his films have regularly grossed over $100 million, going all the way back to The Waterboy (1998), except for when he tries more "artistic" movies like Punch-Drunk Love, Spangish, Reign Over Me, or Funny People. In those movies, he reveals a most fascinating side of himself, withdrawn, sad, and defensive, as well as funny.

Since those movies never make much money, he has no incentive to make them very often. When he makes his "regular" movies like Jack and Jill, he barely even tries anymore, and he makes a fortune. Jack and Jill would be one of his laziest releases yet, with the exception that some effort had to be put into turning Sandler into "twins," one of them a female.

Jack (Sandler) is a successful producer of commercials, living with his pretty wife (Katie Holmes), and two kids -- one of them adopted. His twin sister Jill (Sandler) comes to visit for Thanksgiving; she annoys and repulses her brother, but she somehow manages to stay through Thanksgiving, through Hanukkah, and to the end of the year. Jack decides that if he could get her a man, it would get her off his back.

Two things happen. First, Al Pacino (played, in a masterstroke of casting, by Al Pacino) falls in love with Jill, and coincidentally, Jack needs Al Pacino to star in a Dunkin' Donuts ad, or his firm will go under. But Jill does not like Al, for some reason. Rather, she finds herself far more comfortable with Jack's landscaper, Felipe (Eugenio Derbez, who also co-stars, in drag, as his own grandmother).

I don't suppose it's much of a surprise how this all winds up, with a little lying and deception thrown in to drag things out; it barely has a pulse. Pacino seems to have the most fun ranting and raving on a Los Angeles stage as Richard III, and Sandler gives his most energetic performance since Zohan as Jill; cleverly, he gets to be as annoying as possible, and then, as Jack, he gets to react to his own obnoxiousness. Yet the film doesn't go any further into the possible psychological implications of this relationship. The movie starts with interviews with real-life identical twins, but, again, played mostly for laughs and cuddles.

But talk about lazy. The director Dennis Dugan, whose seventh Sandler movie this is, can barely be bothered to match continuity between shots. We even get the tired old chestnut of the Super 8 home movie footage prologue, showing the main characters as kids. Indeed, it looks as if Sandler has not even left his house to go to work; this is the latest of several movies in which he plays a rich guy living in a Hollywood mansion. Holmes is the latest cutie-pie to play Sandler's girlfriend/wife, with absolutely nothing to do, but probably collecting a huge paycheck. (Salma Hayek and Kate Beckinsale were two others.)

Add to this a large roster of the expected guest stars and cameos, whose work is already finished by the time they appear on camera. Among Sandler's friends, we have: David Spade, Tim Meadows, Nick Swardson, Allen Covert, Norm MacDonald, and a disguised Dana Carvey. Star cameos include Regis Philbin, Shaquille O'Neal, Drew Carey, John McEnroe, Bruce Jenner, and, waving goodbye to the last vestiges of his soul, Johnny Depp.

Refreshingly, though, Sandler and company have excised the typical vulgar humor, earning a PG rating and making a fairly safe movie for kids over the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. The remaining laughs are as sporadically funny as if they had consisted of fart jokes, etc.

I kept thinking of the great screen comics of the past, and how the ones that made pure entertainments for the sake of cash tend to fade away in favor of the ones that made artistically interesting films (Chaplin had it both ways). Certainly Sandler has proved that he has something genuine to offer, but he keeps withholding it again, and again, and he doesn't seem to get much reward when he does put in the hard work. It's a crying shame.

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