12/31/13

ALONG CAME POLLY - REVIEW


Long before Ben Stiller travelled the world looking for Sean Penn, or a piano, or whatever that Walter Mitty movie was about, he starred in light-hearted comedy Along Came Polly alongside Jennifer Aniston and introduced the notion of blind ferrets and naked Hank Azaria to the world of cinema.

As a romantic comedy, Along Came Polly is exactly what you'd expect: typical by-numbers boy-gets-girl, boy-loses-girl, boy-gets-new-girl, boy-loses-new-girl, boy-gets-new-girl-in-the-end fare with the obligatory corny moment here and there and the obvious third act epiphany. Nothing original there, alas. That said, as just a goofy comedy, it works surprisingly better than you expect. Remember The Heartbreak Kid? That movie wishes it was Along Came Polly. The Stiller/Aniston pair-up works and admittedly makes for a solid central relationship to focus on but this is the supporting cast's movie. I mean, it's like these side characters were written and cast first, long before the whole rom-com aspect was even conceived. It's such a good mix of cartoonish loons that, whether you like the romance part or not, they bring some laughs to pretty much every scene. From the offset, you've got Philip Seymour Hoffman playing Stiller's best friend, a loud, crude loser who used to be in a Breakfast Club-style 80's hit called "Crocodile Tears" (lol) and has been living off it ever since. This is Hoffman at his slapstickiest and he pulls it off beautifully, whether he's slipping and falling on hard ground, showing off his awful basketball skills, sharting in an art gallery or making a scene during a Jesus Christ Superstar revival, he's hilarious and basically steals every single scene he's in. Alec Baldwin, meanwhile, clearly has a ball playing Stiller's sleazy, funny-voiced boss and Hank Azaria gives it his all, and I mean his ALL, as a French nudist scuba instructor who charms Debra Messing's character early on. His ridiculous accent making him a cartoon character but one who somehow works perfectly in this movie and who ends up being one of the most memorable things about it.

Ben Stiller plays pretty much the same clumsy, unlucky character he perfected back in the days of Meet The Parents and There's Something About Mary with one added phobia: his character Reuben is a risk assessment analyst and is therefore reluctant to take any risks. The hook is that, after his marriage falls apart, Reuben meets an old schoolmate, Polly (Aniston), who is a bit of an airhead and is much more impulsive than he's ever been. She carries a ferret around on a leech, her apartment's a mess, she enjoys going to "ethnic" restaurants and partying out in salsa clubs, which is all extreme stuff from Reuben's point of view but, to the rest of the world, really isn't all that extreme at all. It's interesting that the film chooses to caricature certain characters and keep others somewhat more restrained. One second Bryan Brown shows up as a danger-seeking goofball and literally jumps off a building, the next Reuben is learning to dance and the film is almost normal again. Of course, many of those more sensible moments are nothing more than build-ups to silly jokes but it does a good job to keep you interested until then. Speaking of the jokes, they're not exactly super classy, some of them fitting into the Farrelly Brothers' style of gross-out comedy, like a chaotic toilet mishap, others suggesting disgusting things rather than showing them. But then there's more subtle character-based jokes and slapstick madness now and then so there's more or less something for everyone. Ultimately, Along Came Polly works well as a light, undemanding rom-com thanks to both leads working well together and the supporting cast being so genuinely effective.

While not exactly great art or particularly memorable of a movie, Along Came Polly is still an entertaining enough, funny little wacky flick with some very fun moments and a likeable bunch of people you actually don't mind watching making fools of themselves for an hour and a half.

Guilty pleasure.

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