Regular Adam Sandler coordinator and two-time Razzie Award nominee Dennis Dugan has a lot to answer for, with I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, Grown Ups and You Don’t Mess with the Zohan amongst his list of crimes against humanity. After a reasonable effort with Just Go With It, a film that worked if you followed the advice of the title, Dugan has reteamed not only with Sandler but with Click and Bruce Almighty scribe Steven Koren for what is undoubtedly a grab at the Eddie Murphy/Martin Lawrence coin of cross-dressing for fun and profit. If you’ve ever thought a film needed at least 100% more Sandler, then Jack and Jill may be your ticket.
Jack Sadelstein (Adam Sandler, Zookeeper) is an advertising executive married to Erin (Katie Holmes, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark), with two strange children. He dreads his loud-mouthed and socially inept twin sister Jill (also Sandler) visiting for the holidays, particularly given that he is desperately trying to secure Al Pacino (playing himself!) for a Dunkin’ Donuts commercial. Jack can’t seem to get rid of Jill, and his worlds collide when Pacino, on the verge of a nervous breakdown, falls madly in love with Jill.
Dugan’s track record never gave us much hope for competent direction, and he too often misses some of the obvious moments for comedy, stretching out others well beyond their used-by date. With Jack and Jill, he has relinquished any creative control he may have had to co-writer, star and producer Sandler, for whom this was never anything but a vanity project. The same could be said of any of the Happy Madison productions, but there is something particularly insidious about Jill from the get-go. The artificial dichotomy of Jack’s successful jerk to Jill’s unattractive and obnoxious, but loveable on the inside, Jill is merely the conceit required to create a weak character arc for Sandler.
Dugan doesn’t tread any ground that hasn’t been gone over countless times in Big Momma’s House or Eddie Murphy’s The Nutty Professor, or some of the lesser works of the Farrelly Brothers. Indeed, there could have been a half-decent movie inside Jack and Jill has Sandler not chosen to play his own sister, who is never anything more than Adam Sandler in a wig doing that one voice he does. Sandler proves that at the age of 45, the man-child schtick is wearing thin. Had Sandler played against someone other than himself, perhaps he would have been able to flex some of those acting chops we briefly saw in Punch-Drunk Love, or remind us of why we loved him in The Wedding Singer. This is Sandler desperately trying to recapture some of his past glory, complete with references to Happy Gilmore. The young Rohan Chand, playing Jack’s adopted child who likes to tape animals to his body, provides more natural comic timing than the aging slapstick merchant.
Jack and Jill would be a complete write-off were it not for the baffling presence of Pacino. The Oscar-winner being in this movie seemed about as likely as the Dunkaccino commercial in the film, but then again he has been seen on Australian screens hocking Vittoria Coffee so anything is possible. Pacino gives the performance his all, and is perhaps his best performance in the last decade. Parodying everything from his Shakespearean bent to The Godfather, his erratic portrayal of himself is strangely on the money, simultaneously reminding us of what went wrong with his career and why we still think he’s the greatest. If for no other reason, the chance to see Pacino rap about coffee or lose his shit to an audience member on their mobile phone may just justify the ticket price.
Sadly, the same can’t be said for the rest of the supporting cast. Filled with well-wishers and friends of Sandler, including a cameo from Dana Carvey in his first screen appearance in nine years, the film descends into a undergraduate mess of moments, rather than being a complete film. You know it is bad when David Spade in drag is used to bring resolution to your film. How Johnny Depp was convinced to represent may remain a mystery for the ages. There are undoubtedly moments of levity, and even a few chuckles, but most will feel like they have fallen down and broken their crown after this singular experience.
Jack and Jill is released in Australia on 1 December 2011 from Sony.