Along Came Polly (2004)
Ebert: San Francisco Examiner:1/2 TV Guide:1/2
I'm not sure why all the reviewers seem to have a problem with this movie. I loved it. It was really really funny. I don't know what they were expecting but from what I knew going in, I got exactly what was promised and a little more. It's just a Ben Stiller movie!
But honestly the best part of this movie isn't Ben Stiller or Jennifer Aniston or that little blind ferret you saw in the previews who comically runs into things. The true comedy star of this film is Philip Seymour Hoffman. Every second he's on the screen is hilarious and every moment he's not there you are just waiting for his return. I'll tell you more about his character in a minute.
Along Came Polly is a standard comedy film with all the requisite formulaic jokes and funny moments connected together by a single amusing theme. The basis of this one is that Stiller's character Reuben is a risk manager who lives a very careful predictable life. After breaking up with his wife of one day he meets an old friend from school named Polly (Aniston.) She's kind of like a free spirited mix between the Rachel and Phoebe characters on Friends. Obviously she's completely wrong for Reuben but they try to strike up a relationship anyway and the mismatched mad capped odd couple hilarity ensues.
Even though the film seems to have been scripted by a computer programmed to pen romantic comedies, it still works because it follows the formula. It's got the incompatible couple. The mean (ex)wife played by Debra Messing. The goofy best friend by Hoffman that I mentioned before. Hank Azaria as the funny foreign guy who steals Reuben's wife. Bryan Brown as a crazy Australian extreme sport daredevil millionaire who Reuben's boss, Alec Baldwin wants to insure. And they have the "strange parents" jokes that every good comedy needs. There's a great moment with the parents in an Indian Restaurant where Reuben's mother, trying to be culturally sensitive, repeatedly refers to the waiter as a Native American. There's also the requisite embarrassing bathroom scene that you saw in the preview to amuse the 12 year olds.
But the real reason to go see this movie, the only reason perhaps, is to see the super terrific Philip Seymour Hoffman. I always like him (Boogie Nights, Cold Mountain) but this is a rare opportunity when he can play really silly. He plays Reuben's best friend Sandy Lyle a former child star who made one popular Breakfast Club-type movie and has been riding his slight fame well into adulthood. Even though the film was about 20 years ago everybody still recognizes him and he makes the most of it. His hilarious prima donna antics at a community theatre performance of Jesus Christ Superstar, where he insists he be allowed to play both Jesus and Judas is priceless. The sloppy clothes draped over his overweight body supply as many laughs as his enthusiastic though completely unskilled basketball flair. And then the coup de grace is the fact that he has hired a film crew to follow him around and film his E! True Hollywood Story without E! even knowing or asking for it. He plans to just present it to them when it's complete.
Stiller and Aniston are funny too but the supporting cast is much more interesting and basically steal the show.
I don't usually comment on this but the film has a decent soundtrack of cool songs. Most noticeably, one comedic interlude is accompanied by the great Brendan Benson song "Tiny Spark." I've liked Brendan for years. He lives in my old hometown of Detroit and my friend Chuck and I have covered many of his songs.
So forget what everyone else has said about this movie and go see it or rent it. I guarantee you will find something funny and if you make Hoffman's performance the main focal point you will have a great time.
Also: Another thing I liked about this movie is that before it started they showed the preview for the new Starsky and Hutch film coming out later this year. This preview is so funny I probably would have paid just to see it alone. I can't wait for this movie. It's going to be awesome. Go download the trailer right now and check it out.