More than 24 hours has passed since I watched the new Adam Sandler movie Jack and Jill and I am still dead inside. It made me feel as if comedy itself were a dirty thing, mainly practiced by people eager to express ugly feelings toward everyone from homely women to Mexican immigrants. I can’t definitively say that this is the worst Adam Sandler movie ever made, having missed last summer’s Grown Ups, but it is certainly the worst I have ever seen. And I have always had a soft spot for Sandler.
Jack Sadelstein (Sandler) is a successful director of commercials who lives in Los Angeles with his wife Erin (Katie Holmes, about whom can be said only that she is pretty and looks good in her cute outfits) and their two children, cheerful little poppets who jump up and down on cue and behave nothing like real kids. The movie begins with the Thanksgiving arrival of Jack’s dreaded twin sister Jill (Sandler in drag), a spinster who speaks with a honking, lisping, painfully exaggerated faux Bronx accent. She extends her visit to stay long past Hanukkah. The Sadelsteins are Jewish, a point that Jack hammers home again and again with his oft-voiced paranoia about anti-Semitism, directed mostly at his hapless assistant (Nick Swardson). I found it jarring, like a punch line without a joke.
Jill is offensive. Her comments to her small nephew, adopted from India, are tasteless enough to get a producer fired from the Oscars. She’s also overbearing, oblivious to social cues and (shudder) has unresolved incestuous feelings for her brother, which began in infancy when she would spoon Jack in their crib and rest her little hand on his rump. As an adult she longs to do the same, creeping up behind him as he naps. “Why can’t you lay with me?” Jill whines indignantly when Jack recoils from her.
Part of the film’s plot revolves around Jack’s attempts to find his lonely sister a non-family member to love/spoon, first on legitimate dating websites, then via Craigslist. When all that fails, he tries to hook her up with Al Pacino. (We’ll get back to Pacino later. Did I mention I’m dead inside?)
All this matchmaking is hardly necessary, because Jack’s nice Mexican gardener Felipe (Eugenio Derbez) practically salivates over this beast. Felipe invites Jill to join him for a regular Mexican family pastime – picnicking in the park, playing soccer, eating chimichangas and “stealing white people’s wallets.” This squirm-worthy moment is topped only by Jill’s post-picnic run for the bathroom as the chimichangas make “a run for the border.”
I forgive Jack for hating his sister because I hate his sister. But the movie, like so many, insists on making a sentimental case for sibling bonding; the two eventually offer forced declarations of love. That climactic moment is conducted entirely in the twin’s secret language, a kind of pig Latin. Perhaps Sandler couldn’t stomach it in English. Personally, I can’t stomach a life lesson from a movie this vulgar.
Do you still think you might want to see Jack and Jill? Well the film contains approximately one minute that is not excruciating. It’s the one in which Johnny Depp appears during a Lakers game. He is droll and amusing. But there are any number of YouTube clips — free clips! — in which he exudes that Depp charm. Why is he in this film? Is it some sort of cross dressing solidarity (see Ed Wood and Before Night Falls)? This is the actor who compared being in photo shoots to being raped. Granted, he later apologized for it, but there’s an irony there.
In its presumption that audiences will eat up any inside Hollywood moment — celebrities courtside, just like in the tabloids, but talking! — the Lakers scene is representative of how lazy this movie is. It is also ugly, shot with all the visual grace of the cheapest sitcom. Except for the cruise ship scenes, which are shot with all the grace of a Royal Caribbean ad campaign. And fancy that, the Sadelsteins actually take a Royal Caribbean cruise. But of all the film’s product placements, that’s not even the most egregious. That honor goes to Dunkin’ Donuts.
Which brings us back to Pacino. Dunkin’ Donuts wants Pacino to star in one of their ads, and if Jack can’t make this happen, he’ll lose the lucrative client. Fortunately Pacino encounters Jill at the Lakers game and is set aflame with passion for her. In these grotesque scenes, Pacino is pitiably game. If the surprisingly reticent Jill will let Pacino fondle her, then maybe the star of the Godfather movies will sell out to the doughnut slinger. Al Pacino in a Dunkin’ Donuts ad. Can you imagine anything worse? I can.