Jack and Jill: Film Review

Jack and Jill - Movie Still: Adam Sandler, Katie Holmes, Rohan Chand and Elodie Tougne - H - 2011  [nid:260180]
Sony Pictures
It’s an uphill battle for Jack and Jill with this leaky pail of comic swill.

Adam Sandler stars as Jack, whose life is turned upside down when his twin sister, Jill (also played by Sandler), comes for a visit.

The funniest part of Adam Sandler’s dual-role, ambi-gender comedy vehicle, Jack and Jill, is the mashup on YouTube of the movie’s trailer with an increasingly traumatized George C. Scott in a scene from the 1979 Paul Schrader drama, Hardcore. Seriously, brilliant stuff. The rest, not so much.

Sandler has made a handful of more mature comedies; this is not one of them. Back in whoopee cushion territory with an undernourished vein of sentiment, he takes a co-writing credit with Steve Koren, from a story by Ben Zook. But the movie, directed with workman-like diligence by frequent Sandler collaborator Dennis Dugan, is less a screenplay than a lazy pitch.

It might have started something like this: Let’s make Adam a mensch from the Bronx called Jack, who moved out to California, married this gorgeous wife and had two adorable kids. One of them is ethnic and adopted, which’ll be cool and, like, quirky. Maybe we can give the kid some weird random behavioral tic like taping stuff to his body. Awesome, huh?

PHOTOS: Hollywood's 10 Highest-Grossing Actors

So Jack’s life is perfect only he’s got this annoying, clueless twin sister called Jill he has to put up with once a year when she flies out for Thanksgiving. She’s also played by Adam and she’s, like, real homely and kind of a jock and has a loud, squawky voice and a lisp. And she has a pet cockatoo called Poopsie. Hilarious, right? And Jill keeps extending her stay and Jack’s going nuts.

Then, someone from marketing might have chimed in: Hey, what if we made Jack an advertising executive so we could pay for the movie with product placement for Pepto Bismol and stuff? And then, OMG, when we can’t figure out how to resolve things between the twins we’ll just stick everyone on a Royal Caribbean Allure of the Seas cruise. That way we get more promo dollars and the audience will be too distracted by all that floating luxury to notice there’s no catharsis. Genius. High-fives all round.

That’s pretty much the movie except, oh wait, there’s Al Pacino. In order to keep the Dunkin’ Donuts account, Jack’s agency needs to lock down Pacino to advertise their new Dunkaccino. (Geddit?) So Jack takes Jill to a Lakers game to stalk him. He doesn’t have a hope of convincing him to do the commercial. But – surprise -- Al is feeling nostalgic for his Bronx roots and a little off-kilter, which makes him instantly smitten with Jill.

With bizarre commitment, Pacino endures one indignity after another -- as himself, as Richard III and as Don Quixote. Why? You start to wonder if they drugged him. Similar doubts arise about Katie Holmes in the utterly thankless role of Jack’s good-natured wife. Where were the Scientology minders, saying, “No, Katie, no!” And what about all those celebrity cameos? Folks like Regis Philbin, Shaquille O’Neal, Drew Carey and Bruce Jenner are not such a mystery. But Johnny Depp? Does someone at Sony have incriminating photos of him?

There might have been a sweet comedy here if Jill had been treated like a real character. In theory, she’s a meek homebody -- lonely, socially challenged and starved for affection, craving quality time with her resistant “wombmate.” But physically, she’s never more than Adam Sandler galumphing around in a wig and a dress, acting dorky. Even back in the actor’s SNL days as a Gap girl, he put more effort into playing female. (One of Sandler’s cohorts from that sketch, David Spade, turns up briefly as an unfunny Bronx Guidette.)

VIDEO: Adam Sandler's 'Jack and Jill' Trailer Hits the Web

As for mining the singular connection between twins for comedy, that happens mainly in the cute interviews with real identical twins that open and close the film. The idea is lifted from When Harry Met Sally, which did it with slow-bonding couples.

There’s a solid history of contemporary comedy built around men playing women, from the sublime (Tootsie) to the disarming (Mrs. Doubtfire) to the guilty pleasure (White Chicks). But this is closer to the lowbrow anathema of Eddie Murphy in Norbit. Jack and Jill is witless and sloppily constructed, getting by on fart gags, homeless jokes, Latino stereotypes and that old favorite, explosive chimichanga diarrhea -- and no, not in an inspired Bridesmaids way. Maybe there’s an audience for it, but they should be embarrassed.