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Along Came Polly

Let's talk marketing.

There's Something About Mary was a tremendously successful flick that gave rise to a whole new sub-genre. The "Let's watch Ben Stiller humiliate himself" collection which includes Mystery Men, Zoolander, Meet the Parents, and last year's Duplex, has one wondering if he's just given up on doing anything cool like The Royal Tenenbaums ever again. With scenes of our Mr. Stiller with his trousers around his ankles, and shots of elderly blind ferrets bumping into walls, previews for Along Came Polly promise another notch in that increasingly irritating belt. Somehow the marketing guys at Jersey Films seem to think this is what audiences want, and are pushing the gross-out Stiller-fest aspect.

This is wrong wrong wrong!

I will grant you that Ben Stiller repeatedly makes an ass out of himself. Ferrets do bump into walls, and there are some poop jokes. However, just about all of the gross-out humor is in the trailer, and the movie would be funny even without them. We even get some witty dialog, and a fantastic supporting cast that steals the show.

Stiller plays Reuben Feffer, a risk-management analyst for an insurance firm headed by Alec Baldwin's Stan Indursky. Reuben is cautious in every aspect of his life, and thinks he's making a safe choice when he weds Lisa Kramer, a tightly wound Debra Messing. On the first day of their honeymoon, Reuben walks in on Lisa shagging a French scuba instructor played by Hank Azaria.

Side note: Azaria looks damn good naked. Hank, call me!

Reuben drags himself back home, alone and broken, and wondering what's wrong with his life. His best friend, Philip Seymour Hoffman's aging childstar Sandy Lyle, convinces him to, and subsequently ditches him at, a high-falutin' gallery party.

Enter Jennifer Aniston as inept waitress/free spirit Polly Prince, a former middle-school classmate of Reuben's. In an attempt to move on from Lisa and start a new life, Reuben calls -- make that stalks -- Polly and eventually asks her out, only to discover that she's flakey, commitment phobic, and totally opposite to calm, predictable him.

Wacky hijinx ensue.

What makes Along Came Polly a not-half-bad little movie are the cute little sub-plots, and the obvious thought that has gone into each character. Stiller and Aniston have some decent chemistry, and though we're sometimes hit over the head with character back-story, it all seems to fit together.

Hoffman, as usual, puts his all into the one-movie ex-brat packer Sandy, and sorta channels Jack Black while still remaining likeable. He's such an endearing asshole, I might be willing to sit through a movie just about him. Hank Azaria's brief (hee hee) appearances are full of gold, and
Alec Baldwin exercises his true calling as a supporting player. He's so much more fun as a comic actor than a leading man and his turn as a gruff, excessively hands-on insurance exec was so detailed and funny, I almost forgave him for Cat in The Hat…almost.

Another wonderful supporting actor is Bryan Brown as Leland Van Lew, a daredevil CEO that Reuben is evaluating for life insurance. Leland is even more reckless than Polly, and he provides a hilarious contrast to Reuben, forcing him to take risks. Some of the best laughs come from Leland, and his outlandish behavior adds an element of unreality without venturing into outright fantasy.

Sometimes the movie tries too hard. There were moments when Stiller was so mawkish and goofy that it took me out of the movie. A dance scene in which Stiller shows off his new salsa moves made me think I was in Zoolander again, and there are some slow motion bits that didn't really need to be there.

Overall the film tries really hard to be both a gross-out flick and a heartfelt romantic comedy. Though the story moves along reasonably well, the characters all have so much back story either implied or explained, it seems like Along Came Polly was merely a reason to throw these eccentric characters into one place and see what happens.

It's good entertainment, but see it as a matinee.


Marin Carpenter

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