Let me just preface this post by saying sometimes, very often on a Sunday afternoon, a nearly impenetrable fog descends over a person’s mind and has them making…decisions they would not otherwise make. It’s a dark mist that coats and pervades everything with a creeping layer of existential dread, one that leaves a person able to do little else but eat chili in their sweatpants and stare glassy-eyed at a flickering screen in the hopes that something will make them forget, even for a few moments, that the sun will eventually burn out and all life on the planet will be extinguished even if they do get up and go to the gym. So that’s where I was at yesterday, when I saw Jack and Jill in the theater. Alone.
From the terrible reviews I’d read, I had expected Jack & Jill’s awfulness to scorch the surface of my mind like that very same imploding sun, to burn away any reflexive movie-going pleasure in a blinding flash of incompetence, my eyeballs boiling in their sockets like milky eggs as my skeleton jaw dropped open and the magnitude of the film’s awfulness obliterated me. Given my mindset, that actually sounded kind of appealing! Plus, the only other thing playing at the time was Puss in Boots, which the Union square Regal had edited to a vagina-denying “Boots” on all the signage. So the fact that Jack and Jill did not immediately destroy my screaming mind in a blistering shockwave of crapulence was already putting it ahead of the game in my opinion.
I would also like to point out that I’ve seen Bucky Larson, another choice I made out of the dark unknowable currents of comedic need. At this point, I would consider Bucky Larson my comedy Nam. I’ll be sitting quietly on a park bench and notice an old woman’s unflattering haircut, next thing I know I’m punching a hotel room mirror and trying to choke out Francis Ford Coppola. Remember in the South Park ep “How To Eat With Your Butt” when Cartman meets The Thompsons, who have asses for faces, and he can’t laugh because he has seen the funniest thing in the world? I feel the same way about Bucky Larson, except in reverse. It is the movie against which I will judge all other movies. Very, very favorably.
So keeping in mind my mental state, and the fact that until they’ve seen Bucky Larson no one aside from God Himself can judge me, I have to admit that I laughed out loud at this movie. I laughed out loud several times. I fucking guffawed at Jack And Jill, you guys. In support of my reaction, here are the funniest moments of the film as I remember them. Context cannot help you now:
“He’s my best friend,” Jill exclaims, indicating a bird. At one point Jack’s son turns around and runs out of the family’s living room, with the bird in question Scotch-taped, screaming, to his bare back. Multiple times we see Jill sprinting through the forest after fighting with her brother. At one point she sleeps outside, in a clearing, like a lumpy, lisping fawn. Norm MacDonald cameos as an Craigslist pervert horrified to find out that Jill is his date; at one point he clings like a bat to a bathroom lighting fixture in order to avoid eating a salad with her. David Spade also cameos, also in drag; he is hurled violently into a wall. At one point, as you might have easily predicted, Jill eats Mexican food and has explosive diarrhea. She and Jack argue through the bathroom door as outrageous, cacophonous liquid farts rip through the theater. I’m only a human. I am only on this planet for what amounts to a few insignificant ticks of the grand, slow clock of the universe. MIGHTN’T I ENJOY ALL THE FART JOKES I CAN BEFORE MY BONES TURN TO ASH?!?
Part of my enjoyment of this movie would probably be that I over-sympathized with Jill(!), a lonely unattractive middle-aged woman with a grating voice, no friends (other than that goddamn bird), and a permanent case of the meat sweats. I’m not saying I see myself in her; I just love any physically awkward, socially off-putting female character, even if Adam Sandler invented her just to have her ride a Jet ski into a tree. And oh, how she does. Then there’s Al Pacino. We all acknowledge that Al Pacino has, for quite sometime and in almost all his more recent films, been playing a parody of Al Pacino. In Jack And Jill, Al Pacino is willfully playing a parody of himself, and his parody is one of wild screeching and deep unsettling lust. Al Pacino becomes sexually consumed with Jill, and his wild-eyed hunchback libido is allowed to crawl, drooling, all over this film. How would you explain to a space visitor the feeling you have when you need a glass of water, or a deep breath of fresh air? And then what if instead of water, it was a man in drag, and instead of air, it was the image of a drunken, panting Al Pacino breaking a chair over said man-in-drag’s back, after he’s already been attacked with a broken-off liquor bottle during their second date? What words would you even use to describe the feeling of thirst? How many kinds of thirst can we recognize before we all turn away from our animal bodies and lizard brains, ashamed?
Which is not to say that there weren’t so many terrible parts. There were…so many. I cringed, I gasped, I hid my face in my hands. There is a Rob Schneider joke that someone replies to by saying, “Hey, I like him.” Honestly, I have to admit here that I didn’t fully know when I was laughing at something genuinely funny, and when I was laughing at something truly terrible. After a certain point (i.e. the second I bought a ticket to Jack and Jill), it didn’t matter. It all bled together into one hypercolor, veneer-wearing blur. I laughed at the bizarre amount of Dunkin Donuts product placement, up to and including an insane musical number starring Al Pacino in a donut-patterned vest, singing donut-ified lines from Scarface. Then, in the movie’s final scene, Al Pacino turns to Adam Sandler’s character and told him to burn the commercial so no one can ever see how godawful it is. What was I laughing at then? What wasn’t I laughing at then? Did I mention Johnny Depp is in this film for some reason, too?
A large part of me truly wants to apologize for liking this movie (and for, you know, giving them $13.50 of my hard-earned money) but, really, what’s the point of saying I’m sorry when I derived some modicum of pleasure from it? It was terrible, and I liked it anyway. Time Magazine's Mary Pols wrote in her review, “More than 24 hours has passed since I watched the new Adam Sandler movie Jack and Jill and I am still dead inside.” My pull quote would be something like, “If you’re already dead inside, Jack and Jill will temporarily re-animate your limbs with a jerky, frenetic animation, your nerve endings dancing along to a series of electric comedy jolts long enough to make you feel like you are once again a living being. Provided you deeply love men in drag, Which you do. In your heart, you truly do.” I’m willing to acknowledge that I am what’s wrong the American movie-going public (note: I mean, I definitely am), but maybe, sometimes, a movie’s only role can be to distract you for a few hours from the fact that we are all just ants in the afterbirth. If you need to have some humor scalded onto your soft gray brain matter, Jack and Jill isn’t your worst bet. Also, if we’re going to be honest with ourselves…it’s not that much worse than Little Nicky.