Ben Stiller had better be careful. He's wearing his comedy shtick into the ground. It worked in "There's Something About Mary," "Meet the Parents," and "Keeping the Faith." Now it's getting a bit old. His comedy usually relies on monkey gestures and crazy facial features, such as when he baby-talks to Puffy the dog in "Mary" or when he insults a picture of Robert De Niro during the closing credits of "Parents." Stiller is very distinct in his comedy but now he's passed over the line into stereotyping himself. Whereas his comedy counter piece, Owen Wilson ("Zoolander," "Starsky and Hutch"), came to public attention with terrific performances and has grown (career-wise) ever since, Stiller is typecasting himself. They're both brilliant sorts of comedians in my book, perhaps the modern day equivalent of the bickering Lemmon and Matthau. But Stiller's whole approach to comedy is, unfortunately, becoming repetitive. He's a funny man (and I thought he directed "The Cable Guy" very well much to the disagreement of most cinemagoers and critics) but I'd love to see him tackle a truly daring role sometime in the near future.
In "Along Came Polly" he plays another bumbling, nervous, neurotic fool who falls in love with an adventurous woman and then realizes that although they are both very different, they really belong to each other. The crazy girl is Polly Prince ("spelled with a 'p'"), played by Jennifer Aniston with great casualness and occasionally annoying whining rants. It's unfortunate that Polly isn't given more depth since she comes across as -- no offense to Aniston or anyone associated with the character -- a total bewitch. (Sorry, can't write the actual word -- this review has to be family friendly.) Polly is a playful, outlandish person, who doesn't really care about anything and has a deep-rooted fear of intimacy and commitment, whereas on the other hand Reuben (Stiller), her new "friend" she once knew in middle school and has now become reacquainted with, is a total nut job. Reuben's greatest fear is to contract a deadly virus from a hand bowl full of nuts. "On average one out of six people wash their hands after going to the bathroom," Reuben tells Polly in a bar after she reaches for a complimentary bowl of nuts. "Maybe seventeen people a night eat out of that thing. That's one hundred and nineteen people a week." Polly sees things completely different.
Reuben has no sense of adventure at all. He is Polly's complete opposite. In the beginning, Reuben gets married to his sweetheart, Lisa (Debra Messing). As they honeymoon on a tropical island, Reuben walks in on Lisa having sex with a scuba diver instructor, Claude (Hank Azaria). The entire situation occurred in the first place because of the fact that Reuben was too scared to go scuba diving and risk "accidents."
Reuben sells life insurance, which explains his constant worries. To him, everything is judged by percentages, such as the miniscule chance that he could be hit by a car on his way home from work. Because he is constantly surrounded by these digital numbers representing the thin line between life and death, Reuben's anxiety has grown, mutating into a very nervous creature. Sometimes during the movie Stiller is so erratic that it is painful to watch him. Oh, and did I mention that Reuben has irritable bowel syndrome, meaning that any exotic foods can result in messy outcomes? (The scene explaining this is a very blatant rip-off of the infamous bathroom scene from "Dumb and Dumber," and it's not even half as funny. Even the farting noises are irritating.)
The movie tries to preach to us that we all should live our lives like Polly: careless and without worry, because as one character says in the stereotypical Big Inspirational Speech of the film, we only live our miserable lives once, and why make it completely miserable instead of looking for the good in things? This is a fine moral but the movie never decides whether its audience should mimic their lives after Reuben or Polly. At the end of the movie we are led to believe that marriage is wrong, and then we learn that maybe marriage is a good thing, after all. We also learn that Polly has some major problems yet we're supposed to be inspired by her life. "Along Came Polly" isn't really all that funny, with lots of bodily humor and silly juvenile jokes, not to mention a rather disappointingly contrived performance by Phillip Seymour Hoffman who tries (to no avail) to make his character realistic. But worse than that, the film leaves us wondering what its true message is, hidden underneath the thick layer of crude fart and poo jokes and bad innuendo. I wish it would make up its mind. Maybe then it would have been a bit easier to enjoy. Probably not.
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