Along Came Polly

The pedigree behind Along Came Polly makes the film all the more disappointing. It is a reteaming of actor Ben Stiller and writer (and now first-time director) John Hamburg, who worked together on Zoolander and Meet the Parents. It is also the latest film for Jennifer Aniston, whose profile is much higher now that she's shown she can actually act (The Good Girl) and her friends gig is nearing its conclusion. It's too bad that Along Came Polly never feels complete as a film. It feels like Hamburg had some ideas for a few scenes that he felt were funny. They didn't have that much in common, and he constructed a screenplay to work around this. It is just Stiller rehashing the same character he plays in most other films, and the best parts are in the previews.

Stiller (Duplex, Orange County) is Reuben Feffer, a risk analyst who takes his work to heart. He is methodical, uptight, and anal in all his dealings, as to best avoid dying, getting a disease, or anything else dangerous. The beginning of the film sees his new marriage to Lisa (Debra Messing, Hollywood Ending, The Mothman Prophecies) quickly end when she cheats on him with Claude (Hank Azaria, Shattered Glass, America's Sweethearts), a beefy scuba instructor in St. Barts. A devastated Reuben returns to New York only to bump into Polly Prince (Aniston, Bruce Almighty), an old acquaintance from junior high. He decides that he needs to move on and decides to ask her out, and the film moves on from there. It never deviates once from the standard romantic comedy formula, so people know immediately what is going to happen and how things will turn out. It looks like Polly needs to learn commitment, and Reuben needs to learn how to loosen up.

It doesn't really have anywhere to go, because the laughs sputter out quickly. Hamburg wants to emphasize the fact that Reuben and Polly are complete opposites. She is carefree, extremely flighty and indecisive, and deathly afraid of commitment. Oh, and she has a ferret which is going blind. Polly takes Reuben salsa dancing and out to eat Moroccan food, even though he cannot dance and hates ethnic food because of his irritable bowel syndrome. And he falls in love with her, blah blah blah. The film is a series of setups to watch Stiller suffer, something he can usually do pretty well. It only serves to remind people about his performances in films like Meet the Parents and There's Something About Mary. The jokes tend to gravitate towards the bathroom, literally and figuratively, and this wears thin. In other films, Stiller and Aniston have shown that they can be charming and funny, but they don't have any chemistry here. Part of the reason is that the Polly character is too underwritten for her to amount to anything.

When people clamor more for the supporting characters than the main stars, it can be a problem. The supporting characters here are the only ones with any sense of life. Azaria is looking really good, and Claude is loads of fun. Alec Baldwin (The Cooler, The Cat in the Hat) plays Reuben's boss, a gruff weirdo who cares little for anything else save the big deal Reuben is working on. And best of all is Philip Seymour Hoffman (Cold Mountain, Owning Mahowny) as Sandy Lyle, Reuben's best friend and a washed-up child actor. Hamburg wrote Sandy as a bad actor, so Hoffman gets to ham it up. Sandy is slovenly and living in the past, blissfully unaware of the real world around him.

Haro Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 30 minutes, Rated PG-13 for sexual content, language, crude humor, and some drug references.

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