When I first saw the trailer for Jack & Jill, I was sure it was a ruse. Especially after Funny People, where Sandler satirizes exactly the kind of actor who’d take on a role like this, I’d hoped the comic had entered a new phase of his career – one more challenging. But that analysis proved to be a tad on the auspicious side given that he chose to follow up Funny People (an ambitious misfire) with a return to familiar shtick in Grown Ups.
If this latest offering from Sandler’s Happy Madison production company is indeed a ruse, then we are the marks and Sandler and director Dennis Dugan are laughing all the way to the bank. Jack & Jill isn’t just bad, it’s an abomination. It’s the sum of what happens when creative bankruptcy goes unchecked and is allowed to keep making work. In Jack & Jill there are no redeeming qualities, just the output of a tired movie star who after almost 20 years is still content working from the very bottom of the barrel and appealing to the lowest common denominator.
First, let’s look at the positive. Both Tim Meadows and Norm MacDonald got paid.
Now the negative, and there’s no better place to start than with Sandler himself. I actually like the guy. Billy Madison was and is one of my all time favorite comedies. With Madison and Happy Gilmore, Sandler proved that there was a place in film for his aggressive, slapstick style of comedy. I also have fondness towards his work in Wedding Singer and Punch-Drunk Love, two films where the guy proved he could do more than bark, fall down or make poop jokes.
But clearly something went wrong. I don’t think Sandler got the response he had hoped for out of dramatic turns like Love or Funny People. Because now I feel Adam Sandler sort of hates us. In Jill, he’s unleashed the single most awful character I’ve ever had the displeasure of seeing and hearing on screen. Though the film manipulatively tries to convince you otherwise, this is a character with no redeeming value. She’s not cute, she’s not funny, and the voice Sandler creates for her is the very stuff of nightmares.
When lonely Jill (Sandler) crawls out of her hole in the Bronx to visit her twin brother Jack (still Sandler) and his family in LA, the notion of her staying past Thanksgiving doesn’t sit well with Jack. But to the ire of both Jack and the audience of this film, stay she does. What follows are a series of cameos, Katie Holmes trying to self-induce a coma, laborious product placement and scores of people falling down. All sprinkled with the occasional fart noise. And when it’s over, Al Pacino stops by to announce the death of his career.
Of all the filmic injustices apparent in Jack & Jill, Pacino’s presence is by far the most grievously heartbreaking. Playing himself, he’s the big get for ad exec Jack throughout the film. For reasons beyond human comprehension, Jack needs Pacino to star in his upcoming Dunkin’ Donuts commercial. Pacino, playing himself as a crackpot, is at first hesitant. But when he inexplicably falls for Jill at a Laker game, he resolves to do anything to win her love. The only idea sadder than Al Pacino rapping the “Dunkacino” in a fake Dunkin’ Donuts commercial is Al Pacino starring in this piece-of-shit film. Fredo might have been murdered in cold blood out on that lake, but clearly it’s Michael Corleone who’s now paying a far greater price.
If we’re talking percentages, Jack & Jill is 60% cameos. It’s as if Sandler is afraid he’ll lose his friends if he stops paying them, because they’re all here to do nothing. Shaq, John McEnroe, Allen Covert, Rob Schneider, Regis Philbin, Dana Carvey, fucking Jared from Subway. And those are just the ones I can remember. Given his propensity to cast everyone he knows, I’m surprised Sandler kept the role of Jill all to himself. Why not dress David Spade up in a lady wig and have him play Jill? Instead Spade has to settle for playing an entirely different character in a lady wig.
But it’s not all cameos, there has to be room for product placement as well. We’ve already covered Subway and Dunkin’ Donuts. The third act takes place aboard a cruise, a luscious Royal Caribbean Cruise. And boy do the cruise people get their money’s worth- as their logo is featured prominently throughout. There’s even a Mediterranean-looking European guy who greets Sandler & Co. with a gingerly “Welcome to Royal Caribbean Cruises!” Welcome indeed.
Jack & Jill is a bold statement by Sandler, Duggan and Happy Madison Productions by extension. It’s 90 minutes of unfilm: a wink followed immediately by a middle finger. It’s the equivalent of an old man farting into your face for an hour and a half with the expectation that he’ll be thanked politely when it’s over. The people involved with this film don’t care whether you enjoy it or not. They made it, now pay them.
It’s becoming increasingly apparent that movies are a job, not a passion, for Sandler. That’s fine, true for many mainstream stars I suspect. But effort is appreciated. If Sandler took this approach at your job he’d be roundly fired. This isn’t a matter of doing the bare minimum – he strips the minimum bare and rapes it while onlookers applaud and throw coins. If that sounds the least bit appealing to you, by all means enjoy your shit sandwich. But even the least-discerning film fan can look at this mess and see it isn’t worth their money.
To quote a Sandler film from better times: “I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.”
Out of a Possible 5 Stars