Along Came Polly
March 1, 2004
John Hamburg, ,
Starring: Ben Stiller, Jennifer Aniston, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Debra Messing, Alec Baldwin, Hank Azaria, Bryan Brown, Jsu Garcia, Michele Lee, Bob Dishy, Missi Pyle, Judah Friedlander, Kevin Hart, Masi Oka, Kym Whitley, ,
Risk-assessor Ben Stiller falls for unpredictable Jennifer Aniston in this weak romantic comedy.
To the casual DVD renter (and yes, there are such people, believe it or not) looking at the back cover of Along Came Polly they would be forgiven for thinking, ‘Ooh, that woman from Will & Grace; she’s funny! And that other one from Friends! This is sure to be a hoot!’ Well, two out of three ain’t bad, because despite the decent cast (Phillip Seymour Hoffman turns up to show that even when slumming it he out-shines everybody on screen with his little pinky) this a predictable, tired and, worst of all, unromantic romantic comedy.
You can tell the outcome purely by the premise; uptight suit Rubin wants a house, a wife and stability but is cheated on by his new bride on their honeymoon and then bumps into old school-friend Polly, who redefines the word ‘flaky’. Gosh, d’ya think they’ll end up together? So that’s the romance part, such as it is, but what about the comedy? You would think writer-director Hamburg could come up with better personality clashes than ‘Polly taking Rubin to a restaurant he doesn’t like’, but that’s about as deep as he’s willing to go.
The remainder of the thankfully brief running time is filled in with toilet gags (literally) and OTT supporting characters. Alec Baldwin seems to be playing his dad, while Simpsons regular Hank Azaria gets an A for effort for buffing up to resemble Brad Pitt in Troy, but you can’t help but worry he’s been dismissed in Hollywood as ‘that bloke who does funny voices’. And just what is Phillip Seymour Hoffman, one of the best character actors ever, doing in this trash? When even he strains to raise a decent chuckle (“Here comes the rain!”), you know you’re in trouble.
Stiller is starting to spread himself too thin in this same type of role (self-humiliating loser) and needs to either take a break or do some more straight roles like Our Friends And Neighbours before he burns out completely. So really we’re left with Aniston to carry the movie, and admittedly she is the most engaging character and the only person with any sense of history to her. But just when you start to warm to Polly the script calls for her to disappear for most of the third act.
Lost in Translation showed that you could have romance and comedy in the same film without resorting to toilet humour or blunt confessions of adoration. Along Came Polly is the flip-side of the coin; the last dying breath of the gross-out rom-com sub-genre (we hope) aimed at people under 25 who should, statistically, laugh when someone gets diarrhea on a date or walks into a pole.
An unexceptional commentary by director John Hamburg sets the tone for the rest of the features, which include an original opening, a deleted scene featuring Debra Messing, a Making Of featurette and the trailer. The outtakes are mildly amusing (“Lubin, I will take care of ‘er as if she ver my oon flesh and blue’d”) but like the film itself, will only really amuse you if you’re in an undemanding mood with a bunch of drinking mates.