Ben Stiller, Jennifer Aniston, Hank Azaria, Debra Messing, Philip Seymour Hoffman
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
Ever so often, you see a film at just the right moment in your life that no matter how incredibly average the film is it just clicks for you. "Along Came Polly" came along at just the right time in my life for me to be seduced by its gentle humor, spirit and sweetness.
Featuring Ben Stiller, in yet another loveable doofus role, and Jennifer Aniston, in yet another sweet, flighty romantic role, this film is a guilty pleasure for me. It doesn't really have enough laughs to please the fans of Stiller's usual brand of comedy or Aniston's sitcom fans...yet, it clearly is not going to please simple romance fans due to its abundance of fart jokes and amateur Farrelly touches.
Yet, for many reasons, I found myself connecting with this film. Some of this connection is undoubtedly due to the fact that my current "relationship" sort of resembles the one carried on by Stiller and Aniston...I found myself laughing, and even crying in spots, as I resonated with scenes throughout the film.
Stiller, who plays a risk assessment analyst, is in desperate need of a branching out performance. While he is certainly competent here, I kept thinking to myself "seen it before." Sure, there were still funny spots but I'm only willing to laugh at the same routines so many times. However, I continue to be impressed by Jennifer Aniston...her range in recent performances has shown far more potential than I ever expected. Her ability to convey a free spirit, compassion, longing and passion are simply wonderfully captured in this film. Her "matter of fact" approach to humor fits perfectly with this character, and instantly makes her likeable and someone we grow to care about throughout the film.
In smaller roles, Hank Azaria does a nice job as a scuba instructor on St. Bart...While it is not a well developed role, Azaria's gift for voices comes in handy here and turns what could have been a throwaway role into a memorable one. Additionally, Debra Messing (of "Will & Grace") does a nice turn as Stiller's wife. Admittedly, it's a simply written role with not much of a stretch required...but, Messing still handles it nicely. Perhaps strongest of the smaller performances is that offered by the ever dependable Phillip Seymour Hoffman. I found myself surprised that Hoffman would offer himself to such a film, but I chalk it up to needing to pay the rent. Hoffman steals most of the scenes he's in, and is a joy to watch in his scenes with Stiller. Hoffman has such a gift for taking the simplest scene and simply owning it. Kudos also to Alec Baldwin, as Stiller's boss, and the best onscreen performance by a ferret I've ever seen!
As written and directed by John Hamburg, "Along Came Polly" didn't quite live up to its potential. Yet, it's a film I saw at exactly the right time in my life and in the exact right mood...I enjoyed it...it made me laugh, made me cry a bit and left me feeling happy I'd seen it. You won't be captivated, but you also won't be disappointed!
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic