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Review: Jack and Jill (2011)

Jack and Jill (2011)

Directed by: Dennis Dugan

Premise: The oafish sister of a middle aged man (Adam Sandler) comes to visit for the holidays.

What Works: There is nothing good to say about this film.

What Doesn’t: Adam Sandler’s filmography is a rap sheet of crimes against cinema and Jack and Jill may be Sandler’s single greatest offense. There is literally nothing good to say about this movie. In most of his films, Adam Sandler plays barely tolerable characters but in Jack and Jill he is cast as both the lead character and as his female twin and he manages to create two despicable characters that the audience cannot care about and cannot wait to be rid of. It isn’t just that Jack and Jill recycles the cross dressing joke that was old when Robin Williams did it Mrs. Doubtfire, that Martin Lawrence beat to death in three Big Momma’s House films, and that Tyler Perry’s finally buried in his Madea stories. Jack and Jill isn’t just unfunny; it is actually an unpleasant film to watch. Viewing this film is like listening to fingernails scratch across a blackboard for ninety minutes. It’s that cringe inducing to sit through. Part of this is due to Sandler’s dual performances, and some of it is due to the appearance of cameo after cameo of talented actors popping up repeatedly to remind the audience of all the better movies we could be watching instead. But this movie is also very mean-spirited and not in the subversive meanness of Gremlins or Bad Santa. The whole joke of Jack and Jill is that the sister is obnoxious and tortures everyone around her with her insufferableness. Viewers don’t have to be particularly sophisticated to detect the underlying misogyny in Jack and Jill, and just as I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry relied on homophobia for its humor and then tried to make a statement for equality, Jack and Jill tries to have it both ways. After ridiculing this woman for an hour the film tosses the viewer a disingenuous message of acceptance. Although all that should be enough to indict this film as among the worst pictures of 2011, there is another dimension to Jack and Jill that makes it all the more frustrating to watch. There is an important difference between Adam Sandler and other hack actors and filmmakers. Performers like Rob Schneider and Larry the Cable Guy recognize the limits of their talents and influence and create a niche for themselves, producing awful works for a small but receptive audience. But Adam Sandler has proven his ability to transcend this kind of industrial, lowest-common-denominator filmmaking with pictures like Big Daddy, Reign Over Me, and most recently Funny People in which he played a version of himself. What Sandler never seems to realize is that once he crossed that threshold and proved he could make good work, going backward was no longer an option. When Sandler’s production company spews out drivel like Grownups, Zookeeper, and Jack and Jill it reveals that Sandler is fundamentally lazy. He could be making films like Funny People or even Click, pictures that were amusing and even insightful, but he chooses not to. And that makes Sandler’s pictures far worse than the efforts of lesser talents (such as the performers who consistently populate Sandler’s films) because viewers should realize they are intentionally being served a substandard product.

Bottom Line: Films by Saturday Night Live alumni are often criticized for overextending comic concepts, but Jack and Jill would never have worked even as a ten minute skit. This is a horror of a film and it may be the lowest point of Adam Sandler’s career.

Episode: #267 (December 6, 2009)