'Jack and Jill' is double trouble

  • Article by: RENE RODRIGUEZ , McClatchy News Service
  • Updated: November 10, 2011 - 2:49 PM

Adam Sandler plays dual roles and Al Pacino plays it straight as himself in this mirthless comedy.

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Adam Sandler and Adam Sandler in "Jack and Jill."

Photo: Tracy Bennett, Columbia Pictures

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Among the famous people who make cameo appearances in the new Adam Sandler comedy "Jack and Jill": Johnny Depp, John McEnroe, David Spade, Shaquille O'Neal, Drew Carrey, Christie Brinkley, Michael Irvin, Regis Philbin, Dana Carvey and even Subway guy Jared Fogle.

Total number of laughs all this amassed star power generates: One.

The bit with Depp, who has an amusing exchange with Al Pacino, made me chuckle. Yes, Pacino is also in "Jack and Jill," playing himself. This is not a cameo but a real supporting role. And unlike Robert DeNiro, who often sleepwalks through his for-the-paycheck jobs, Pacino gives the movie his all.

"Jack and Jill" contains long stretches of squirm-inducing tedium in which Sandler riffs and ad-libs far longer than he should, as if he thought that wearing a dress would immediately turn anything he did into comedy gold. Playing Jack Sadelstein, an L.A. ad exec dreading the annual holiday visit of his twin sister Jill (also Sandler), the actor is obviously having fun. But the party doesn't include the audience.

The film radiates a smirking, self-satisfied vibe, and Sandler goes so far over-the-top as Jill -- a whiny, needy New Yorker who has never used a computer, has never eaten Mexican food and, apparently, has never gone out on a date -- that I was gritting my teeth 15 minutes in. Suddenly, sitting through "The Human Centipede" again doesn't seem like such a bad idea.

Sandler is a capable actor: He's done good, sometimes surprising work when he's paired with a strong director (Judd Apatow's "Funny People," Paul Thomas Anderson's "Punch-Drunk Love," Mike Binder's "Reign Over Me," James L. Brooks' "Spanglish"). But left to his own devices, Sandler reverts to his worst, laziest habits. He forgets that what might have been tolerable in a three-minute "Saturday Night Live" skit becomes excruciating when stretched to feature-film length. And this is one of Sandler's PG-rated, kiddie-friendly films, so instead of any edgy humor, you get fart jokes, pratfalls and more fart jokes (I counted four, but there could be more).

I might not have been able to make it all the way through "Jack and Jill" if it weren't for Pacino -- not because he's funny but because his performance is fascinating. This is arguably Pacino's first big sell-out, but he earns every single dollar. He plays himself as an arrogant, show-off manipulator, relentlessly pursues Jill as a way of getting into character for an upcoming gig as Don Quixote in "Man of La Mancha." Why isn't he as irritating as Sandler? Because he plays everything completely straight, and that's what draws your attention. When he watches the song-and-dance TV commercial for Dunkin' Donuts that Sandler's ad-man convinced him to do, he's understandably horrified. "Burn this," Pacino says. "No one can ever see this."

The joke, of course, is that he's also referring to "Jack and Jill."

  • JACK AND JILL

    ★ out of four stars

    Rating: PG, mild vulgar language, comic violence, crude humor.

    RottenTomatoes.com: read reviews

    Showtimes: view listings

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