Adam Sandler is Jack. Adam Sandler is Jill. That’s the one-joke premise for Dennis Dugan’s Jack and Jill, which is so thinly scripted that by the end, you’ll wish it was an adaptation of the nursery rhyme. Instead, it’s Sandler’s worst movie; I think I said the same thing about Just Go with It earlier in 2011, and maybe Grown Ups the year before, and very possibly I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry a few years before that. But now the bar has really been raised.
The confounding thing is that Sandler makes some good movies. You’ll be excused for not having seen Sandler’s best film, Funny People, which, despite being directed by Judd Apatow, underperformed in the US and failed to even see a theatrical release in the Czech Republic. In it, Sandler played movie star George Simmons, who was distressed by the awful movies he’s made, including one in which his head is grafted on to an infant’s body.
Now, there was some thought put into the staging of that fake movie, and the semblance of an actual plot, which already puts it several steps ahead of Jack and Jill. Yet, Sandler’s latest has already outgrossed Funny People by a considerable margin. Hey, the masses have spoken, and who is Sandler to deprive them of what they want?
Of course, Sandler (who co-wrote Jack and Jill) knows what he’s making (though I can’t say the same for director Dugan, whose high-water mark is You Don’t Mess with the Zohan), and he knows that these movies make a lot more money than his more serious fare, which also includes Punch-Drunk Love and Reign Over Me. But that doesn’t excuse the absurd level of contempt that Jack and Jill holds for its audience.
Jack is Jack Sadelstein, an ad executive, which gives the movie an excuse for a nonstop barrage of product placement. I didn’t think the product placement in New Year’s Eve could be matched, but Jack and Jill beats it handily by incorporating the brands into the plot, and then topping it off with logos left and right in almost every frame of the film.
Story? Dunkin’ Donuts simply must have Al Pacino in their new commercial (his name, you see, rhymes with their Dunkaccino beverage), and Jack must get him to sign on. There’s no way Pacino would do it, but he just happens to be madly in love with Jack’s twin sister Jill…
You might assume Pacino only has a brief cameo here, but no, he’s the central plot point, front and center through much of the film, and the only member of the cast to put any effort into their performance. And here I was, thinking things couldn’t get any worse than Righteous Kill.
Sandler as Jill? You may recall Eddie Murphy in The Nutty Professor, unrecognizable under mounds of excellent Rick Baker prostheses, portraying a number of characters of varying sex, age, and weight.
Here, Sandler throws on a wig and calls it a day. As an added insult, Jack and Jill rarely appear in the same frame together; when they do, it’s a cheap (and noticeable) split screen or green screen effect. Somehow, Jack and Jill cost $79 million to make, yet looks cheaper than Saturday Night Live.
Add in ethnic stereotypes (racist ‘jokes’ the film thinks it’s getting away with because they’re being spouted by a Mexican gardener – “I’m keeding”), bathroom humor, and a horrific display of animal cruelty (including a crushed pony, an abused cockatoo, and various animals taped to Jack’s adopted son’s back), and you get exactly what the filmmakers think you want.
Katie Holmes also appears, as Jack’s wife, but is given nothing to do. In absence of story, a parade of cameos fills the screen, including Johnny Depp (a rare bright spot), Regis Philbin, Drew Carey, Sandler’s old SNL cohorts, including David Spade, Rob Schneider, Norm Macdonald, Dana Carvey, and Tim Meadows, Nick Swardson, Allen Covert, and sports personalities including Shaquille O’Neal, John McEnroe, Michael Irvin, and several others.
Among the cast and crew, however, only Pacino seems to be trying to perform. Jack and Jill is cynical and contemptuous filmmaking at its very worst.