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Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Along Came Polly

Posted By on Wed, Jan 21, 2004 at 12:00 AM

Is there a script-surgeon in the house? Oh, how I wanted to like this movie, but Hollywood needs a big Band-Aid for this sorry-n-sore scraped-up story. That is, unless you dig rehashed shtick like a guy getting the squirts in the bathroom of his girl-of-interest’s apartment (no toilet paper of course), or playing basketball with sweaty, hairy-backed men, or a failed child star still clinging to the crumbs of fame left over from his one-hit wonder, or ... need I go on?

It seems director/writer John Hamburg works better in collaborations—he had a hand in the scripts for Meet the Parents and Zoolander. This time, he must completely take the blame for Along Came Polly’s overflow of hackneyed crap, because you’d be hard-pressed to collect a more likable cast, highlighting the charisma-comfortable couple of Ben Stiller as Reuben (the conservative life insurance salesman) and Jennifer Aniston as Polly (the “unpredictable” wacky waitress he falls for). Hamburg continually trips over the humor hurdles he sets up, never tapping their potential. Has-been Sandy (Philip Seymour Hoffman) headlines a community theater production of Jesus Christ Superstar which results in quick and obvious mishaps, and when Polly shows Reuben the children’s book she’s trying to get published, the scene begins and ends with a bloody illustration of “The boy with a nub for an arm.”

Hoffman is just one of the talents wasted by spewing listless lines that drop into the cracks. Probably hoping to reprise his adorable gay housemaid bit in The Birdcage, Hank Azaria plays Claude the buff scuba instructor. And without a doubt, the film’s oasis rests on the shoulders of Alec Baldwin as the endearing and crass Stan Indursky. Ever since I saw Baldwin pull off an impeccable Charles Nelson Reilly impersonation on Saturday Night Live I’ve suspected a glorious character-acting career waiting to be unleashed. His performance here gives you a teasing taste. But overall, it makes me wonder, Do actors read scripts before accepting these parts, or is the sea of dialogue so dehydrated out there that mediocre roles appear as shining stars in the celluloid smog?

A couple hours after watching Along Came Polly, it slipped my mind that I even went out to the movies. Not enough laughs to keep things spinning, not enough personality to remember the laughs. For all of you hungry-for-decent-comic-fare, Polly is a whole lotta ho-hum, a limping script with a few charming dimples.

Anita Schmaltz writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail letters@metrotimes.com.

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