Have you guys seen Tony Zhou’s Every Frame A Painting videos on Youtube? They’re really good. Every-time I watch them I’m reminded of how wonderful film can be. I used to watch, and indeed cover on here, a lot more art house cinema. Whilst I love big flashy dumb films, I prefer a beautifully shot exploration of a character or a situation. His latest, on director Lynne Ramsay, really reminded me of this. Anyway, I watched Jack & Jill this week. Fuck.
2 minutes. 2 minutes is roughly how long it takes for Jack & Jill to do its first fart joke. I like a good fart joke. Despite my previous mentions of more artistic persuasions I’ve always felt that there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the puerile. Puerile humour is at our base. It’s the thing that forms the very chronological beginnings of our humour. One of the greatest comedy scenes in history is a fart joke. That being the famed fart in an elevator scene from Revenge of the Pink Panther, which was later contorted into a great moment in Ghostbusters. In Jack & Jill the toddler version of Jack farts in the bath and then his twin sister Jill makes a bigger fart. That’s the first gag. I really shouldn’t call it a joke. Oh, and this comes right after about 2 minutes of real twins discussing how they feel about being twins. If it wasn’t for those real twins the film would have opened on a fart in a bath. Adam Sandler is a fart in a bath.
I’ve always believed that a certain amount of your critique of a film should be effected by your expectations. If you expect a big dumb action film and that’s what the film whole-heartedly is, then the film hasn’t really failed in that respect. Obviously cinematography and the like come into it, so a film could still be awful, but at least it would be honest. Jack & Jill isn’t honest. It’s vile and deceptive and crafted by a man (child) capable of so much more. Sandler has proved that he is a capable actor in films such as Punch-Drunk Love, Reign Over Me, Funny People and even Spanglish. Even some of his earlier comedy efforts feature decent moments of performance that almost feel like he cares. Being aware of this makes me wonder just how lazy and terrible a person he can really be… but then seeing Jack & Jill just reminds me of the fact he is. I genuinely think he doesn’t understand where his talents lay at all and, more worryingly, doesn’t care.
Jack & Jill features Sandler as the titular Jack and Jill, twins that have a somewhat estranged relationship. Jill comes to stay and then a film happens and there’s mention of Hanukkah but I’m pretty sure they didn’t even actually celebrate it. There’s a few shots of a Menorah having it’s candles lit, showing the passage of time as Jill overstays her welcome, but that’s it. The cruise they’re going on (which I’ll delve into in a bit) is meant to be their Hanukkah holiday but nothing Hanukkah related happens. There’s a Thanksgiving dinner scene which ends in disaster because of the 1939 Thanksgiving Disaster Insurance act which requires that Thanksgiving be portrayed as the worst thing ever. I don’t get why it was a big deal early on and then forgotten about.
This film cost nearly £80 million to make. $80 million. For a comedy film with some split screen and green screen effects. The film looks cheap, like it was shot on a DSLR camera instead of a high end digital camera like a RED Epic. Everything looks flat. Sets look like they came from an identikit catalogue. Need an office set, we’ve got generic office 5 on discount! There’s a couple of scenes in the woods that appear to be the property of Jack and his family because they’re horrendously wealthy that looks like something used on a stage play. What is it with American comedies focusing on incredibly wealthy families instead of actual people? Scenes where both Jack & Jill are on screen are composited in such a way that they look almost like the effect was done on someone’s Youtube channel. Seriously, Freddie Wong does this stuff better with his limited budget and fast turn around. I’m honestly amazed I couldn’t see a split in the screen like in that episode of South Park with the kids from the evil dimension.
Lord knows where that budget went. Probably on hiring Al Pacino to spend the film degrading himself. He plays a caricature of himself that I just seems like a crazed mad man. Is Al Pacino perceived to be that in real life? I always thought he was quite a quiet guy. He’s not the only person playing himself. As Jack works in advertising (more on that soon) there’s a number of cameos from various “personalities”, especially during a party scene. Even that terrible human being, Vince of Shamwow and Slapchop fame, makes an appearance. Oh and of course that Subway guy is there. Of course, they add nothing to the film but give either Jack or Jill someone to make jokes about. I say jokes. Mostly it’s Jill making noises of some kind.
So, Jack is an advertising agent. That’s convenient for Adam Sandler’s love of product placement. I suppose it’s the one honest thing in this film. He literally wrote in context for product placement. And despite that there’s still a load of it outside of any scenes revolving around his job. There’s a scene in a cinema where Jack, his adopted son Gary (Rohan Chand) and Jill are sat with Coca-Cola cups, label forward, on each arm rest cup holder. There’s even Coca-Cola logos on the fucking popcorn bags! Oh, and of course the movie theatre looks like about 4 rows of seats set up in a dark room. And, yes, there’s a fart gag there. The main “plot” of the film involves Jack wanting Jill to get with Pacino, who’s fallen in love with her, so he can secure a Dunkin’ Donuts deal with him. The main plot of the film revolves around a product. The film even ends with the advert. Oh, and that cruise I mentioned earlier… there isn’t so much an establishing shot for the cruise ship, but more of a full blown advert for Royal Caribbean. Adam Sandler once said that he makes films based on where he wants to go on holiday. We literally watch Adam Sandler go on holiday in this film and are advertised to for the pleasure of it. At what point do we see so many adverts in a film that we should be able to question if we need to pay for it at all. Like, when does it stop being a film and start being an ad break?
Early in the film Jill states that she wants to do a load of stuff while in LA. This results in a series of scenes that exist because she said she wanted to do these things. They include her squashing a donkey because she’s supposed to be fat. Because being fat is funny because if you’re fat you’re not Adam Sandler. Jill, somehow, knocks herself out spinning the wheel on The Price Is Right, which, of course, features a Drew Carey cameo. It’s funny cos she knocked herself out and she’s not Adam Sandler. Well, except for that she’s being played by Adam Sandler. So basically, if you’re not regular Adam Sandler you’re the butt of a joke. Every other character, apart from maybe Jack’s wife Erin (Katie Holmes dying a little inside), are the butts of all the jokes. The only time Jack is the butt of the joke is when he dresses as Jill to trick Al Pacino into signing the Dunkin’ Donuts deal. It’s common in Adam Sandler film for his character to be a dick, but Jesus Christ, he’s a colossal arsehole in this. He gets some measure of comeuppance but that’s very quickly brushed aside when he literally talks nonsense to Jill and everyone goes “awwww”. The scene features Al Pacino dressed as the Man of La Mancha because method actors are crazy, right?! They do that shit! They totally do!
You might think I’m being a stick in the mud about this film, but man… I tried to approach this with an open mind. It’s just so hard too when you’ve seen the crap Sandler unashamedly puts out these days. The stink of his other films wafts onto this before you even begin watching. The Happy Madison logo has become one of my most feared things to see on screen now. This film wears down your will to live by just being horrible in every way. It’s shot poorly. The script is unfocused, rambling and self serving. It’s mean spirited in every way. I laughed when the little kid punched Jill in the face… mostly because all I see in Jill is Adam Sandler in drag and because watching Adam Sandler getting punched is satisfying on a primal level. I realise that’s inherently mean spirited too but that’s the mindset the film put me in. Oh, and there’s an easy joke where Al Pacino’s Oscar gets broken and Jill says “I’m sure you have loads of them” to which he replies “You’d think” which made me… what’s between a snort and nothing at all?
At the end of the day Jack & Jill is an absolute piece of shit. Is it the worst film ever made? No, not at all. I’m sure some people will laugh. They must be seeing as nothing is stopping the Adam Sandler lazy train. But it is still just fucking awful. You know, I considered going to see Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 recently because I figured it would probably be awful and writing bad reviews can be cathartic. I think I should have seen that film because writing this review for Jack & Jill has just made me feel depressed. This is what comedy is now. It’s just things happening to people who aren’t white males and it’s funny, primarily, because they aren’t white males. It’s worrying. Remember jokes? Remember structured jokes that were relatable in some way? A group of men are stuck in a elevator, one farts, and each person in there shifts the blame. In doing so small elements of the character are revealed, Clouseau’s refusal to accept blame, silence is punctuated with a perfectly timed toot. We get to see a pure physical piece of situational and performance based comedy that we can relate to in a small way whilst watching a comedy master at work which is done with incredible subtlety in 22 seconds. 2 minutes into this film a child farts in a bath and that is it. We learn that the character farts. Fuck this film.