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Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington

Wilmington on Movies. Jack and Jill


Jack and Jill (Two Stars)

U. S.; Dennis Dugan, 2011

In comedy, shamelessness is sometime a virtue, sometimes a vice — and Adam Sandler hits both those keys in Jack and Jill. It’s his drag comedy movie. Sandler plays identical male and female twins, Jack and Jill Sadelstein, who live on opposite coasts (and, in many ways, in different worlds), but are getting together for Thanksgiving, with a possibility, as it turns out, of a stay through Hanukah and beyond. They have, to put it mildly, a complicated relationship. It’s a complicated movie too — funnier than most recent Sandlers, but also sometimes violently obnoxious.

Rich, successful Jack is a good-looking guy and a high-rolling TV commercial director and exec, with lots of dough, a great family (Katie Holmes is his gorgeous, ultra-nice wife Erin), and connections up the wazoo. (Producer-star Sandler has connections too: Everybody from Johnny Depp to Regis Philbin to Christie Brinkley to Shaquille O’Neal wanders through the picture.)

Jill, on the other hand, still lives alone back in the Bronx, where she took care of their late mom for years and is now alone. She has few prospects, no visible friends (though she’s so weirdly extroverted, you figure there must be a pal or two back in the Bronx), no boyfriend, a pet cockatoo who repeats her rude remarks, and mannerisms so annoying that her brother cringes at the sound of her voice. Among Jill’s more unfortunate traits: a habit of leaping into Jack’s bed and spooning (She calls it part of “twin time“), starting arguments at dinnertime, saying everything in a loud, squeaky Bronx screech of a voice, diarrheic reactions to chimichangas and a tendency to leave huge dark sweat stains on her bed sheets.

She’s delighted to be coming to L.A. for Thanksgiving; Jack just wants her in and out as fast as possible. He’s in the middle of a job crisis. Unless he gets Al Pacino to do his company’s next Dunkin Doughnuts TV Spot, the doughnut people, his biggest client, are threatening to vamoose. And there’s a family problem with Jill: Unless he finds some kind of potential mate for his twin, she may crack up and never leave, possibly tripling his laundry bills, besides driving them all crazy.

The solution comes with the breathtaking ease of bad, obvious screenwriting. Al Pacino himself (played by none other than Al Pacino) is tracked down at a Lakers game, meets Jill (whom Jack generously brought along), falls in love with her Bronx accent, and agrees in principal to hawking doughnuts for Jack if he sets things up with Jill. Jill, unfortunately, doesn’t like Al, a weird reaction for this lonely woman, but one that writer Steve Koren tries to explain by having her say that she doesn’t know or like movies. Instead, Jill seems more drawn to the Sadelsteins’ gardener Felipe (Eugenio Dergez), a nice guy with a mean grandma (also Dergez).

They all — or most of them — wind up eventually on a Caribbean Cruise liner, where — I know you must have guessed this — Jack has to cover Jill’s hostility to Al by dressing up as his sister and ramming two cantaloupes into his brassiere.

This all plays about as dumbly as it sounds — though it’s also funny at times, one of Sandler’s funnier recent movies in fact. A lot of that is thanks to Pacino, who is often amusing and sometimes a scream, and who saves the movie over and over again.

We don’t tend to think of Pacino as a comic actor — instead we remember brooding Michael Corleone and his dark sad eyes, or bank robber Sonny in Dog Day Afternoon screaming “Attica! Attica!” But, in fact, he can be hilarious. I once saw Pacino play Herod in a New York production of Oscar Wilde‘s perfumed and perverse play “Salome,” not really known as a knee-slapper of a show, and, with his wide-eyed, nutty spins and wry subtexts, he was getting laughs on nearly every other line, sometimes on every single line. And they were fully intentional laughs. If you’ve ever seen his last explosive monologue in The Devil‘s Advocate as a corporate demon gone mad, you‘ve witnessed one of the great movie comedy arias of the 80s. (Maybe you didn’t respond to that, but he had me on the floor.)

Pacino doesn’t play comedy all that much, but he should. The best movie comedy writers should be cooking up stuff for him right now. In Jack and Jill, where his role is basically a protracted in-joke, he gets lots of laughs from a script — and from the show’s mock Dunkin Doughnut commercial (where he sings the praises of a new treat called the Dunkacino) — that really isn’t all that funny. But with his manic delivery and pricelessly straight face, he makes it all work like gangbusters.

Now, Sandler. Sometimes good, sometimes awful. But at least he has the guts to carry through on his (or his writer’s) sometimes bad, sometimes okay ideas. And some of what he does as Jack (or Jill) is fun. It’s not often a comedian can be his own straight man, but here he‘s Dean Martin to his own Jerry Lewis, George Burns to his own Gracie Allen. And though he’s often annoying — his falsetto can be like a chalk-squeak — he does get laughs. Guilty ones, sometimes, it’s true. But laughs. You try it. It ain’t easy.

But seriously, folks…What’s most wrong with the movie, beyond the whole conception of Jill and the usual crassness and bully-boy crudeness that can sabotage Sandler, is that the writers never really make sense out of Jill‘s negative reaction to Pacino. One way they could have done it: a scene where Jack shows Jill Scarface on TV, and she has to watch Al’s Tony dive into the cocaine and hear him say “Say hello to my little friend.“ Or Al could watch Scarface with them and leave a sweat stain. Just one “Ick!” from Jill might nail for us her strange aversion to dating a rich, brilliant movie star. Two “icks” might have really unsealed the deal.

The movie , after all, doesn’t skimp on icks and ick-inducers elsewhere. It’s Sandler’s “Some Like it Hot…and Sweaty”: typical Sandler, which means lots of it is in your face humor. Sandler is guided here, again, by his main Happy Madison Man, director Dennis Dugan, whose movies have reportedly grossed a billion dollars, and who owes it all to a few farts and poops and a tantrum or two. (Hey, put this guy to work on the national debt.) Dugan’s best directorial work here, other than just clearing the stage for Pacino, is his nifty before-and-after credits sequences with lots of sets of actual twins.

Meanwhile, I have a (serious) suggestion. Al Pacino is funny. Instead of lamenting that nobody‘s making any Godfathers or Dog Day Afternoons or Scarecrows for him these days, or beating up on Adam Sandler, why doesn’t somebody in Hollywood try to write Mr. Dunkacino a first rate full-fledged, comedy script with lots of space for comic arias, where he can let loose, out-Herod Herod, and kill the crowd. Not business, strictly personal. Maybe De Niro (or Nicholson) can be his Dino. Sandler can do a cameo. I mean: Who can it hurt?

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One Response to “Wilmington on Movies. Jack and Jill”

  1. Alice says:

    I will never see this film. Not only because drag movies are always painfully unfunny, but also because there is NO SUCH THING as identical male-female twins. It’s biologically impossible, people!


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So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

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