Do you know what Adam Sandler and Steven Spielberg have in common (apart from being of the Jewish faith)? They’re both consistent; consistent in the sense that I know what to expect when watching their movies. Whenever I prep myself for a Spielberg film, I know what’s forthcoming is going to be a superbly shot picture with arresting visuals and a compelling story. Similarly, when I attune myself for a Sandler movie, I come to a realization that I’m going to see a goulash of mind-numbing idiocy and fart jokes. Spielberg’s War Horse which I saw last week (and will be reviewing next month), may not be the best thing the legendary filmmaker has made but even in its worst moments, it’s a captivating watch. Sandler’s Jack and Jill, on the other hand, is destined to become a classic. A classic example, that is – of how excruciatingly lazy Sandler has become.
Sandler plays Jack Sadelstein, a successful advertising executive and family man whose firm is on the brink of losing Dunkin’ Donuts, their largest account. Unless Jack and his crony Todd (Nick Swardson) can somehow nab Al Pacino (playing himself) as the company’s new spokesperson, their jobs are history. As Jack preps for the long Thanksgiving weekend, contemplating the ways he can convince Pacino to star in Dunkin’ Donuts’ new commercial, he is saddled with something even worse – a visit from his domineering and grating identical twin sister Jill (Sandler again). Before I go any further, just read that last phrase “identical twin sister” – is that even a biological possibility? Not to my knowledge. Anyway, I digress. What starts off as a four-day visit ends up becoming more than a month long stay when Jack’s wife (Katie Holmes) and kids feel sorry for the overly dramatic Jill after she gets dumped on her first date ever. Things get more complicated (and ridiculous) when Al Pacino becomes bizarrely infatuated with the uninterested Jill and tries desperately to bed her.
Sandler, who somehow continues to be one of the most successful movie stars in Hollywood despite churning out mind-numbing generic gibberish at least once a year, has been the architect of some of the most unbearably idiotic characters in comedy since his debut in the early 90s. Think Billy Boucher in The Waterboy, Sonny Koufax in Big Daddy, Nicky in Little Nicky, and Billy Madison in um, Billy Madison. As bad and dumb as those characters are, none of them hold a candle to the abomination that is Jill Sadelstein.
Fashioned as a lonely spinster who lives with her mother in New York, Sandler’s Jill ends up being a gigantic stereotype of a Bronx grandma. She’s unspeakably needy, earsplitting whiny, perpetually sweaty and a blubbering idiot who just might be the most ignorant imbecile I’ve witnessed in a motion picture since Mike Myers’ Pitka in The Love Guru. She’s never been on a date in her life, has never used a computer, walks around with her pet cockatoo, leaves sweat stains on her bed, and has no redeeming features or likeable qualities. She also looks like she smells like roasted cabbage. Don’t be surprised if Sandler ends up picking up both Worst Actor AND Worst Actress at this year’s Razzie Awards along with awards for Worst Screenplay (what screenplay?), On-Screen Couple and naturally, Worst Picture. This is the worst thing he’s ever done and for his sake, I hope this career low propels him to attempt making something semi-serious and interesting again.
I also have to give special props to Al Pacino for taking the biggest sell-out paycheck of his 40-year career (this stat includes his roles in Gigli, 88 Minutes and Righteous Kill). I don’t know what it was, other than the paycheck i.e., that motivated Pacino to take this role. Was it the curiosity of what it’d feel like to star in a dumb Adam Sandler comedy or was it the prospect of shedding his image as an ultra-serious method actor? Maybe Sandler walked in on Pacino doing something incriminating and blackmailed him into the part; or maybe he really wanted to add a Razzie to his vast collection of awards. I’m partial to the idea that it was perhaps the thrill of playing himself as an arrogant, ultra serious, uber-obsessive egomaniac that brought him to the role. Whatever it was, Pacino definitely succeeds in doing one thing – pissing on his legacy in the most flamboyant manner conceivable.
Jack and Jill was “directed” by hack extraordinaire Dennis Dugan – because even star-driven stink-bombs (like Battlefield Earth and The Love Guru) need directors. Under normal film criticism circumstances, I’d blame Dugan for the complete failure of this movie but when your entire career comprises of servicing the needs of Sandler and his sad sack buddies, there’s not much to say about Dugan’s skills as a filmmaker. He’s an errand boy. Just about the only thing worth watching in the film, which was co-written by Sandler and Steve Koren, are the anecdotal interviews of real-life twins in the vein of When Harry Met Sally that bookend the picture. They’re cute, funny, engaging and dare I say it, smart. Considering these qualities, I’m willing to bet that they were directed by a second-unit team.
Adam Sandler has let rip some pretty rancid stink-bombs in his career (Little Nicky, The Waterboy, Grown Ups) but they all pale in comparison to the putrid piñata of pain that is Jack and Jill. Finding any redeeming value in this film is akin to finding artistic merit in a bunch of lard-stained utensils trashing about in a corroded dryer. It marks a new career low for everyone involved – especially Al Pacino who probably picked up a hefty paycheck for his “Whoo-ah” mugging. While I doubt any of the cast and crew will suffer greatly for this fiasco (they’re all too established for that), it’s the audience who shell out their money for this hogwash who’ll suffer the most.