Along Came Polly Reviews
Great cast, thoroughly watchable.
Watched on Netflix with Sam at her place, March 10, 2016.
Everything about Along Came Polly cries generic writing. Ben Stiller is playing the same neurotic archetype once again, this time with emphasis on the anal obsessions of his character's constant need to assess risk in everything. This gimmick isn't overused, but the story follows a predictable path without much humour to offer along the way. Relying on the intended humour of the chemistry between Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston, Along Came Polly lacks any intelligent writing in terms of comedy, romance or even drama. The relationship in Along Came Polly is not compelling which confirms that there is no dramatic virtue in the film, yet the general story still takes itself too seriously to work any humour into its situations. The majority of scenes which are obviously intended as comedy prove to be the scenes where the film moves from romantic comedy conventions to crude gags regardless of the fact that they are forced into the story without consideration for how they might actually fit. The fact is that they don't, and they fail to make viewers laugh or divert their attention away from the fact that there is never any development between the actual chemistry shared by Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston. Occasionally, the film breaks away from its story to focus on character's with their own subplots which steps away from the pathetic narrative, but it is too much of a simplistic distraction without enough spirit to transcend the boring nature of the central narrative. The fact that Along Came Polly relies on ridiculous stereotypes who have no relevance to the main story just shows how pathetic the writing is.
Although the story in Along Came Polly is so simplistic and forgettable, there is simply one scene I cannot overlook/ The entire point in the film where Polly Prince discovers that Reuben Feffer has listed all her faults so that he can determine whether to choose between her or his cheating wife is actually one of the key dramatic plot points chronicling Jennifer Aniston's character Rachel Green in her starmaking sitcom Friends (1994-2004). The fact that John Hamburg had to actually borrow his dramatic climax for Along Came Polly entirely from a sitcom in which Ben Stiller once appeared in a cameo as a romantic interest of Jennifer Aniston just goes to show the distinctive shortage of originality plaguing the film if it wasn't already clear.
The lead actors in Along Came Polly hardly seem interested in where the film is going. Both Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston maintain their own brand of awkward attitude in their roles, but there is no sense that they are capable of matching up. There is no feeling of bond established since they both seem so inwardly focused and unable to break free from the generic shackles of their stereotypical attitudes previously established by their countless other roles.
Ben Stiller offers nothing of innovation in Along Came Polly. The man has played the same basic neurotic archetype in countless films, yet Along Came Polly offers nothing slightly memorable about him this time. He circulates in the same predictable flaws so repetitively that he never rises beyond the monotonous lack of emotion his character confines him to, having developed his character about as much as he has left viewers laughing. To specify, I mean he's terrible. Along Came Polly is another weak star vehicle which shows that his overfamiliar antics are beginning to fade in quality and that perhaps it's time for a different path.
But in all honesty I'm really surprised that I didn't like Jennifer Aniston in Along Came Polly. The comedy great has a tendency to create a naturally likable character in almost any role she takes on, yet Along Came Polly can't decide what to do with her character. She is partially a free spirit yet also an awkward and aimless girl which captures the positive and negative elements of her character's lifestyle. Yet the role is written so shallowly that rather than doing anything with the character, Jennifer Aniston plays the titular Polly Prince as generically as possible. She oscillates between cliches of drama and romantic comedy without being meaningful or funny, and her natural appeal as a comic actress is bogged down by a script that has no idea what to do with her. Jennifer Aniston is miscast in Along Came Polly.
Most of the actual comedic success in the film comes from the efforts of the supporting cast. For example, to see an accomplished actor like Academy Award-winner Phillip Seymour Hoffman in the part of a pretentious actor attempting to relive the glory of his one major acting role is just hilarious. He is ridiculously over-the-top and self-obsessive, a role which is so against-type for the man that it is packed with comic glory in a film which really needs it. Phillip Seymour Hoffman's careless and free-spirited nature proves that among his many talents as an actor is the ability to find life in a laugh-free script.
And Bryan Brown takes a part which is essentially off in its own world within the narrative. Playing the careless extreme sports-enthusiast Leland Van Lew, Bryan Brown's relevance to the story is very arbitrary. And since the story is joyless and pathetic in the first place, his humourous spirit works as a strong distraction from the pathetically thin writing of the main narrative. As an Australian myself I'll admit that my patriotic bias gives me greater favouritism for the actor, but nevertheless it is clear that he is one of the most energetic members of the cast and proudly takes the chance to go over the top with gleeful energy. Bryan Brown's own series of sketches are among the few things of value in Along Came Polly.
Also, I'm sure many people can rejoice at the sight of Hank Azaria's butt.
The gleeful comic energy of Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Bryan Brown breathe a modicum of comic energy into Along Came Polly, but it is anchored down by a cliché romantic premise which offers no compelling drama or clever humour but rather pretentious characters and misplaced crude jokes.
January 16th 2016
In the end the movie is quite obvious (like the love Reuben and his wife had for each other and the final choice). Some small smiles (not this great comedy) and one thing that was worth it was Phillip Seymour Hoffman, I mean you loved his comedic appearance and the way he kept the movie alive and is human part when it was necessary. So you might not laugh at Stiller and Aniston but you'll love PSH
The cast does a fairly decent job despite the material overall. Philip Seymour Hoffman often stands out as the goofy "best friend" trope, though Stiller can be annoying as he tries way too hard to fill the stuffy, straight-laced, neurotic, Woody Allen trope.
The hit-or-miss Ben Stiller (hilarious when in the right hands, irritating when attempting to save a film) misses as Reuben Feffer, a hapless company man whose perpetually planned out life is shattered when his wife, Lisa (Debra Messing), cheats on him with a muscly scuba instructor (Hank Azaria) on the second day of their honeymoon. Going back home in an understandably emotionally broken state, he decides to go head-on into his job, ignoring the doubts that eat at him night and day. Only a few weeks into mourning his marital loss, though, does he run into Polly Prince (Aniston), a free-spirited former junior high classmate who just may give him the relationship he's been looking for.
But oh does "Along Came Polly" have trouble persuading. What does Polly like best about Reuben - is it is charming first-date explosive diarrhea, his romantic, informational speech about mixed nuts, his inability to decide which woman to start a life with after Lisa comes back into town pretending like she cares, or is it is startling capacity to get himself into completely avoidable situations that are somehow supposed to end in a cackle? (Consider the way he pretends to love spicy exotic food to impress Polly, only to wind up sweating like a baked pig and clogging her apartment's toilet. Would Polly be offended if he ordered something else? I don't think so.)
And what's the best "wacky" feature about Polly - is it her habit of wearing farmer's market scarves and baggy pants on a near daily basis, her ownership of a pet ferret, her life decision to drift from job to job and shop out of garbage cans when there's good looking merchandise, or her adorkable flakiness? When the film isn't attempting to build an enjoyably offbeat relationship between its mildly irritating leads, it prefers to fill itself up with gross-out gags that don't work because they're so upsettingly convoluted. They seem to exist only because Hamburg didn't know what else to do.
But the most disappointing thing about "Along Came Polly" is its exasperating tendency to take its farcical supporting actors for granted. Philip Seymour Hoffman, as Reuben's former child star best friend, gives a phenomenal comedic performance that provides the film with its biggest laughs; whenever he's in the room, you momentarily believe that you're watching something inspired and not something completely unsuccessful. Bryan Brown, as client-from-hell Leland Van Lew, tickles in his obnoxious lack of common sense. But, alas, the film doesn't realize that its secondary performers are more riotous than its box-office saints, and it suffers trying on the clothes of a modern-day screwball romance.