Reuters yesterday declared Adam Sandler the new Tyler Perry. That’s not an unreasonable comparison – both churn out product annually or semiannually, and manage to gross their budget back several times over with comedies that leave the critics cold.
But despite the similarities, this seems like a strange point to compare the two movie stars because, unlike his recent collaborations with director Dennis Dugan from Happy Madison Productions, Jack and Jill kind of works.
This surprises no one more than me. Having grown up with Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore, I’ll always have some interest to see what’s next for Sandler, even as that interest has become mostly perverted over the past ten years. But even the seasoned Sandler sadist I am saw extra-terrible things coming with this feature – Sandler plays his typical nice rich guy covered in XXL shirts alongside a lifeless co-lead (Katie Holmes, this time) playing his Trophy Wife. But Sandler also throws on a fat suit to become that protagonist’s annoying and unwomanly twin sister, who blurts in with a big Bronx accent and annoys everyone and everything.
And Jack and Jill isn’t a good movie, either. Other tropes familiar to dedicated scholors of Sandler found here include unfunny Racist humor, completely uncalled for jabs at Athiesm, and the most hilariously blatant product placement you’re likely to find (anyone feel like buying a Sony product?)
But this is what Jack and Jill does get right – it has no qualms with the amount of Ridiculous inherent to the Fat-Suit Comedy, and accordingly takes itself just the perfect amount of seriously, which is hardly at all.
That was the downfall of recent Happy Madison movies – they’re all sophomoric, skilllessly-produced comedies on their own, but they’re made all the worse by righteous, preachy and totally inauthentic themes that put an emphasis on Family and Friendship that chime in at the end, waived by the filmmakers as if it’s a Get Out of Jail free card.
Jack and Jill is still all about family members learning to love each other, but it never operates under the assumption that there’s any emotional weight behind any of it. The big Full House moment at the end, where both of Sandler’s characters apologize to each other and hug it out, is still here; but it’s dialogue is delivered in literal gibberish while David Spade looks on in drag and Al Pacino (playing himself, playing Don Quixote) interupts with a giant spear.
Those are just two of many Cameos in the film that add to the levity of it all. This is a movie where Hobos are the most well-behaved guests of a Thanksgiving Dinner and Chile Peppers are stuffed down the mouth of a consenting elderly woman. At one moment, one of the goofiest professional athletes shows up only to don a Wig and take a big bite of cheese. This is a movie full of stupid humor, and a lot of it works.
You’ve already heard a lot of the jokes in Jack and Jill, and a lot of the ones you haven’t aren’t that funny. But it’s all presented in a silly enough way that it’s hard to be very critical of it. That alone puts it above the Happy Madison pack, but the joy taken in the absurdity of it all makes Jack and Jill a relative Masterpiece of the Fat-Suit Genre.