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Along Came Polly

Starring Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston; Philip Seymour Hoffman, Alec Baldwin, Hank Azaria, Bryan Brown and Debra Messing
Written and Directed by John Hamburg

IN SHORT: A luminous Aniston can't save this comedic dud. [Rated PG-13 for Sexual Content, Language, Crude Humor and Some Drug References. 85 minutes]

It isn't a question of whether or not Jennifer Aniston (click for StarTalk) has got the chops to make the move from teevee star to big screen power player. She's picked her "summer vacation" supporting roles carefully and has performed beautifully in them. So now, with Friends breathing its last, comes the big screen team up with Oscar bearer Ben Stiller with A-list support from Alec Baldwin and indie favorite Philip Seymour Hoffman. It's a cast that would make any film aficionado tremble with anticipation. It's a cauldron of talent that could be drained only by a sub-par script.

That sucking sound you hear is the sub-par script at work, draining the chemistry out of the Stiller - Aniston team up and leaving Hoffman and Baldwin and Brown desperately trying to get laughs out of their supporting roles. We've written about the writer/director combo quandary before and we'll do it again now. Comedy writers need to know when a joke isn't working. Comedy directors must send their writers back to the keyboard to fix the gags and situations that aren't working. When one person does both jobs, (he) loses the ability to distance himself from the material. Everything written is written perfectly because the author knows what he's doing and there's no one to tell him otherwise. Thus the dud that is Along Came Polly.

Twenty years ago he tore up the screen with a set of bagpipes in the legendary film Crocodile Tears . . . but enough about faded child star Sandy Lyle (Philip Seymour Hoffman), who doesn't have to do much to be a heckuva lot more interesting than his best friend, Ruben Feffer (Ben Stiller). Ruben is an incredibly average and ordinary nice guy who runs the numbers on potential clients of the insurance house of Indursky and Sons. His job as a "Risk Analyst" means the man can calculate the odds of your breaking a nail or getting hit on the head by a street lamp off the top of his head and then write a policy to get you insured, for a modest amount. It also means he is the kind of guy who won't take risks in his own life, with the exception of stomping on the glass to seal the deal with the very lovely and soon to be less than devoted wife Lisa Kramer (Debra Messing).

Well, there has to be another woman. How else is there going to be any conflict in a story whose male star is deliberately as boring as plain toast? The lovely Lisa is dispensed with quickly, thanks to a honeymoon on St. Barts and a French SCUBA instructor named Claude (Hank Azaria). Ruben comes home and buries himself in work. Boss Stan Indursky (Alec Baldwin) wants Ruben to run the odds on insuring a high risk taking billionaire from Down Under, Leland Van Lew (Bryan Brown).

While Ruben tries to keep up with a man who likes to jump off skyscrapers, he's also dead set on getting back into the dating scene. His eye is set on a catering waitress Polly Prince (Jennifer Aniston), who keeps a blind ferret for a pet and dreams of writing children's books. Polly is, of course, a complete opposite to Ruben's character. It's a generic setup which should generate adequate laughs if the director rode the writer sternly. As it is, all the jokes go to Hoffman's character as he runs rough shod over a community theater production of Jesus Christ Superstar.

No, we take that back. There is a blind ferret in the tale, so you can guess where that's going. Along Came Polly misfires all across the board. On the plus side, the screen nearly melts around Aniston, who displays star quality rarely seen these days. Now she needs a good script.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Along Came Polly, he would have paid . . .



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The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2017  by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.