Main cast: Ben Stiller (Reuben Feffer), Jennifer Aniston (Polly Prince), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Sandy Lyle), Debra Messing (Lisa Kramer), Alec Baldwin (Stan Indursky), Hank Azaria (Claude), and Bryan Brown (Leland Van Lew)
Director: John Hamburg
After having watched a few recent so-called romantic comedies which are nothing more than the scriptwriter’s rejection fantasy made into rubbish movies, I am quite pleasantly surprised to find that Along Came Polly is actually in its heart a romantic comedy that tackles the romance in a halfway intelligent manner. Its greatest flaw is its ill-advised attempt to emulate the gross-out style of There’s Something about Mary, with the result coming up far less amusing than it should be.
Reuben Feffer is a risk assessment officer in an insurance company, but his overzealous caution isn’t just confined into his work: every decision he makes in life is done only after careful assessment of every possibility of risk. He won’t even eat peanuts because there is a one in a few hundred chance that he would contract the Ebola virus! Rueben however wants to be married and have two point something children like the boring old codger that he is, and he seems to have found his dream in Lisa Kramer, whom he marries at the start of the movie.
Alas, it is only a few days into the honeymoon when Reuben catches Lisa knocking knees with a scuba instructor (Hank Azaria with a steroidal beefcake physique and over-the-top French accent). The marriage is off and everything looks downhill for Reuben, no thanks to his taking his has-been movie star buddy Sandy’s advice to heart, until he meets his old schoolmate Polly Prince. He thinks that she’s the one. Alas, she’s commitment=phobic, can’t hold down a steady job for long, and is the exact opposite in personality to Reuben. Can these two find some way to get a semblance of a relationship going?
One thing I really like about this movie is that it doesn’t completely pushes the onus of compromise on the heroine alone. Unlike some romantic comedies that have the heroine giving up her career and life just to make the hero happy, both Reuben and Polly have to compromise, and I like that. Along Came Polly tackles a magnified and exaggerated conflict revolving around trusting your own heart to take a risk with love in a lucid yet idealistic style without insulting my intelligence too much.
The downside to all this is the movie choosing to emulate There’s Something about Mary by half-heartedly introducing some toilet humor and gross-out gags that stand out like awkward sore thumbs in an otherwise well-made movie. These scenes don’t really gel with the rest of the film and come off instead as misplaced gimmicks.
It is a good thing that Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston manage to put on good enough performances to keep things interesting. Both of them don’t have much on-screen chemistry together, but they are watchable. Phillip Seymour Hoffman is basically playing a watered down parody of himself, but he, along with Bryan Brown, manage to complement Aniston and Stiller very well on screen. The lack of chemistry between Mr Stiller and Ms Aniston however leaves me wondering why Polly will stick with a guy like Reuben. He’s a complete killjoy throughout the movie. Still, as I’ve mentioned, the movie doesn’t force feed a saccharine let’s-get-married, pretend-everything’s-okay resolution down my throat so all is not lost here.
If the movie has cut down on its preoccupation with scatological gags and work a little harder on getting the chemistry between the main couple right, it could have been easily one of the better romantic comedies to hit the screen early this year. As it is, Along Came Polly is a watchable movie, but I can’t help feeling that it could have been a so much better movie.