March 18 2013 12:00 AM

Adam Sandler tackles a dual role in the painfully puerile 'Jack and Jill'


In the secret language shared by twins Jack and Jill
Sadelstein, the phrase “polly wolly zoom golly golly” means “I want to choke on
my own vomit.” And that’s precisely what Adam Sandler proceeds to do for 91
soul-crushing, stomach-churning, laugh-free minutes in “Jack and Jill,” yet
another movie that was made primarily because the star needed a vacation (for
no apparent reason, most of the last third of the film is essentially a
commercial for Royal Caribbean International cruises). Sandler gives his audience
a trip, too — a first-class ticket straight to Hollywood Hell.

Nobody can say Sandler hasn’t made a few stabs at
respectability in recent years. Like scores of comedians before him, he’s tried
to establish himself as a legitimate actor in films like “Punch Drunk Love,”
“Reign Over Me,” “Spanglish” and “Funny People.” Unfortunately, none of them
earned him an Oscar nomination, or brought in offers to tackle Chekhov or
Eugene O’Neill on Broadway.

So Sandler, perhaps understandably, has gone back to his
usual modus operandi, cranking out vapid, hastily patched-together comedies
with his friends (such as the astonishingly inept director Dennis Dugan,
Sandler protg Nick Swardson and former “Saturday Night Live” co-stars David
Spade, Norm MacDonald and Tim Meadows). He’s made a decent movie or two along
the way, but the majority of his output has ranged from merely mediocre to
downright unwatchable.

Thanks to his mind-boggling box office success over the
years, Sandler can also afford to hire a few major-league names to spruce up
his vanity vehicles: Nicole Kidman and Jennifer Aniston reported for duty in
“Just Go With It” earlier this year, and Katie Holmes, Al Pacino, and Johnny
Depp were snookered into appearing in “Jack.” Depp, who turns up wearing a
Justin Bieber T-shirt, is only around for a couple of minutes; Holmes, whose
uncomfortable comforting looks and forced laughs make it seem as if she was
acting at gunpoint, and Pacino don’t get off so easily. This may represent the
only time in history in which Pacino could be out-acted by Subway spokesman
Jared Fogle or Shaquille O’Neill, both of whom also drop by for quick paychecks.

The supposed hilarity in “Jack” comes from the sight of
Sandler in a dual role. While he’s merely bland as Jack, a supposed advertising
whiz tasked with luring Pacino (playing himself) into making a Dunkin Donuts
commercial, Sandler manages to be utterly insufferable as Jill, a braying,
clingy, aggressively obnoxious basket case from the Bronx. The sexually
frustrated Jill’s constant pleas for Jack to cuddle with her in bed or on the
couch — “Twin time!” — give a disturbing, incestuous edge to the painfully
unfunny shenanigans that pass for a plot.

“We shared Mom’s womb — we were wombmates!” Jill reminds
Jack in one of the script’s wittiest turns of phrase. Although she was only
supposed to be around for Thanksgiving, Jill decides to stick around
indefinitely, driving Jack crazy and driving viewers toward those oh-so-alluring

Jill also has a pet parrot that accompanies her nearly
everywhere so it can frequently squawk its killer one-liner: “Where were you?” Yep, that’s the joke. But
don’t worry, it doesn’t get any funnier after the seventh or eighth repetition.

After poking fun at Jill’s gracelessness and grating habits
for most of an hour, the movie suddenly takes pity on the character and asks us
to feel sorry for the small-minded, amply proportioned loudmouth who can’t get
a date: Jill’s heartbreaks are underscored with the sort of marshmallowy
whining violins you’d expect to hear in a TV movie about a faithful collie in
the last stage of leukemia. Why settle for being merely lame when you can be lachrymose as

The film’s continual choppiness — many scenes end without
producing a punchline or making a point — indicates that Dugan and his editors
worked with blindfolds over their eyes (and, no doubt, industrial-strength
earplugs), cutting whenever the spirit moved them and blissfully ignoring the
concepts of coherence and continuity.

As Jack’s remarkably peaceful wife, Erin, who must be a
closet Valium zombie, Holmes is primarily called upon to show a stalwart smile
and pretend to be vaguely concerned about Jill’s love life. She’s about the
only cast member who escapes with a shred of dignity.

Pacino, unfortunately, gets saddled with his most
embarrassing role since playing a 18th-century fur trapper coerced
into battling the British in the infamous 1985 disaster “Revolution.” Bellowing
nearly every line and overplaying every moment, he’s called upon to lust after
Jill — they came from the same neighborhood, which is apparently all it takes
to get Al Pacino hot and bothered over you — and, finally, to rap about the sugary
glories of Dunkin’ Donuts new Dunkaccino. If Sandler’s fatuous films
don’t give you much to laugh about these days, at least they’re stuffed with
more ads than the Sunday paper. No coupons, though: If you pay to see “Jack and
Jill,” you’re the one who ends up getting clipped.