Along Came Polly

Jennifer Aniston and Ben Stiller. Written and directed by John Hamburg
Running Time: 90 mins

Before we get too far along, let me say this: Don't see it.

Don't see this film at the cinema. Don't rent it at the vid store. Don't even watch it if it's the only choice on the flight from Sydney to Los Angeles. You'll thank me.

Should you feel the need to witness the film's total absence of humor for yourself, a little further background: Along Came Polly is the story of neurotic, sad-sack, Rueben Feffer (Ben Stiller). Feffer analyzes risk for an insurance company. His profound knowledge of the odds that bad things will occur and a case or irritable bowl syndrome have led to a life of great caution and bland food. The film opens as he practices his vows the
morning of his wedding day and within minutes of saying, "I do," his bride (Debra Messing) has run off with a French scuba instructor (Hank Azaria, who seems have discovered steroids). Racked with this painful and abrupt rejection, Feffer runs into Polly (Jennifer Aniston), serving drinks at a party, and she turns out to be a chum from middle school. And, then, for no discernable reason, they fall in love.

Unfortunately, writer-director, John Hamburg seems to have taken a Farrelly Brothers (Dumb and Dumber, Something About Mary) course on "Toilet Humor in Film." Worse, he plagiarized his own exam; Along Came Polly is highly reminiscent of Hamburg's script for Meet the Parents. Worse still, the toilet humor isn't funny. Which is a real problem given the amount of time the actors spend in lavatories during the film's 90 minutes.

For her part, Jennifer Aniston isn't bad in the role of Polly. Sadly though, her considerable comic dexterity is wasted as it didn't seem to occur to Hamburg to offer her character a single funny line.

The supporting cast is an impressive list of quality actors. In addition to Azaria and Messing, the film features Alec Baldwin as Feffer's boss, Philip Seymour Hoffman as his former child-star pal and Bryan Brown as a
customer of the insurance Feffer peddles. But their characters are mindless caricatures who find themselves in a string of predictable, and not particularly funny, sight gags.

And finally, I'm not sure what anyone hopes to prove by casting Stiller as yet another neurotic geek, but I think it's high time to officially declare the experiment over.

The humor is adolescent, so expect a fair amount of reference to bodily functions. The sex depicted is tame, but these are adults and they find themselves, once or twice, in adult situations.

Harden Grace is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Film Office.

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